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By Jason Carrozza

Hi Everyone,

Happy Wednesday! I love the opportunity to inform you about interesting legal trends. Reproductive rights is an issue that our courts continuously struggle with, but this story has to do with posthumous reproduction. Yes, you read that right. In February 2019, Peter Zhu, a West Point student, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while skiing. His brain was deprived of oxygen and the 21-year-old was placed on life support. Following the accident, his parents filed a petition in Westchester County, NY requesting permission to retrieve their only child’s sperm and save it for reproductive purposes.

Zhu was single and had no children. He was an organ donor and according to his parents he always dreamt of becoming a father and carrying on his family’s legacy. A procedure was already scheduled to collect Zhu’s organs for donation purposes and the judge permitted the sperm retrieval and directed the hospital to store the sperm until further hearing.

This case made it all the way to the Westchester County Supreme Court. The Court listened to testimony from Zhu’s parents, his military advisor, and took the decedent’s intent into consideration. Ultimately, in May 2019, Supreme Court Justice John Colangelo ruled that Zhu’s parents were free to do what they wished with their son’s sperm. At this time, the court will place no restrictions on the use to which Peter’s parents may ultimately put their son’s sperm, including its potential use for procreative purposes.

As of now, the family has made no decision as to whether they will pursue surrogacy.

This case presents many ethical considerations and lays important legal precedent. It also makes me consider what we should be addressing in our estate planning documents regarding storage, ownership, and intent of reproductive materials. With advancing technology perhaps reproductive intent is a necessary component to a comprehensive estate plan. It’s certainly something to consider.

If you already know that you need to address reproductive intent, storage, etc. in your estate planning documents, please contact us today.

Until next time,

About the Author
Jason M. Carrozza is a partner and founder of Family Legal Partners, P.C., previously owning Carrozza Law Office, P.C., which focused on estate planning, probate administration, and business formation. He was recognized as a Massachusetts Rising Star by New England Super Lawyers and Boston Magazine in 2014, 2015, and 2016, an honor given to no more than 5% of attorneys in the state. Graduating magna cum laude from New England Law and ranked 3rd in his class, Jason completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Tampa. He gained experience in civil litigation, divorce, corporate, and insurance defense law firms before opening his practice in 2004. Jason is admitted to practice before the Massachusetts Courts, is a trained family law mediator, and a member of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation. He has volunteered for pro bono panels with Senior Partners For Justice, South Middlesex Legal Services, and the New Center for Legal Advocacy. Dedicated to his community, he has served in various leadership roles including vice president of the Bellingham Business Association and Master of Excelsior Lodge of Massachusetts Freemasons. He teaches Estate Planning Basics at the Tri County Continuing Adult Education program and speaks at estate planning seminars throughout the year. An avid baseball fan and history enthusiast, Jason enjoys outdoor activities and spending time with his family. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Katrina, and their children, Zachary and Madelyn.