Close

Forgot your password?

Choose a newsletter




Premium access provided by ENSTA

Your premium access provided by ENSTA

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by NRC Q

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 8 weeks thanks to NRC Q.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by EM-LYON

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 8 weeks thanks to EM-LYON.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by Goldsmiths

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 8 weeks thanks to Goldsmiths.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by WorldCrunch HQ

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 4 weeks thanks to WorldCrunch HQ.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by MINES Alès Alumni

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 8 weeks thanks to MINES Alès Alumni.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by ESCP Europe Alumni

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 8 weeks thanks to ESCP Europe Alumni.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by IONIS Education Group

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 8 weeks thanks to IONIS Education Group.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by MinnPost

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 6 months thanks to MinnPost.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by Expatica

You've been given FREE premium access to Worldcrunch

Enter your email to begin

Worldcrunch

IVF Drama: Young German Widow Fights For Right To Have Dead Husband’s Baby

Last month, Rike R. lost her beloved young husband to cancer. She received a second blow four days later when, to her great disappointment, she was denied access to her husband’s frozen sperm.

Article illustrative image Partner logo (inottawa)

HAMBURG - Rike R.’s face radiates joy as she remembers her husband – her soulmate. Despite the tough-guy impression his multiple tattoos and piercings may have given off, he was in fact a very shy man, she recalls.

The 29-year-old woman talks about their five years together, and the fact that life gave her such a great love – something she had thought would never be hers. Her mood changes quickly, though, as she is reminded of their shattered dream of having a child together. Going over in her head the details of her husband’s recent passing, of how she held him in her arms, she begins to sob with her whole body, the tears flowing down her cheeks.

But mixed in with the grief of losing her loved one is another kind of pain: the knowledge that she may well never have the child they wanted. German law won’t allow it. And the reason is linked to Holger R.’s medical history.

Together, the couple battled the tumor growing in Holger R.’s head for three years. When he was first diagnosed with cancer, in April 2009, doctors were relatively optimistic. However when the tumor started to grow again a year after an operation removed part of it, doctors ordered chemotherapy which Holger R. began in early 2011.

“We’d planned to have a child, and so we decided that, before chemo began, Holger would have some sperm frozen,” says the young widow. They also married, and she began hormone therapy. Things took an unexpected turn in February of this year, however, when Holger’s condition suddenly worsened dramatically. He was running a very high temperature, and could no longer eat. Just a few days later, on Feb. 11, he died.

Shortly afterwards, Rike R. suffered a second shock when the clinic for reproductive medicine told her -- one week before she was due to be artificially inseminated -- that the hormone therapy would be stopped and that her husband’s sperm could neither be used nor handed out to her. Technically they should also destroy the sperm, doctors said, but in view of Rike R.’s present emotional fragility they would not proceed with that right away.

Following the letter of the law

The clinic’s strict adherence to the rules is fueled by fears of legal repercussions should it in any way be construed as aiding and abetting a pregnancy that under German law can no longer take place. It is strictly forbidden in Germany to use the sperm or eggs of a dead person for artificial insemination. "My only hope was that I could still have our baby,” says Rike R. And she doesn’t understand why “what we so wished for together, the thing Holger deeply wanted to happen when he died and which is my only consolation now that he’s gone” can’t happen.

The clinic’s position may seem heartless, but it is in accordance with German laws governing the protection of embryos. Violations are punishable, so clinics commit to using neither the sperm nor eggs of a deceased person for artificial insemination. Nor will they even release them, for fear that a person could take the sperm or eggs abroad to a country where insemination under those conditions would be legal.

Rike R. is particularly upset because she has since found out that the whole thing would not be an issue if she and her husband had taken the time to draft and notarize a signed agreement that the insemination should in fact proceed after his death. "If we’d known about it, of course we would have done it. But there are so many witnesses to the fact that he really wanted this,” she says.

Rike R. says giving up is out of the question. She plans to fight, and refuses to acknowledge the strong possibility that she may not win. The feisty pool attendant and lifeguard says that if she has to, she will take the issue all the way to the supreme court.

The widow can count on a lot of support – Holger R. was a huge fan of the Hamburg SV soccer team and received a lot of help and support from fellow fans. Previously the team’s supporters collected money to help pay for Rike R.’s hormone therapy. Some of the top players also autographed a shirt for Holger R. that he hoped to wear for a meeting with them. Instead he was buried in the shirt.

Rike R.’s wish to be able to show her husband the ultrasound pictures of their baby didn’t come true. But she does have the photographs Holger R. took of their five happy years together. One of the pictures shows the words her husband had tattooed on his stomach: "Leben ist endlich. Lebe endlich!" Loosely translated, the words mean: “Life's short. Live for the moment!” Fighting on the side of life is exactly what his widow fully intends to do.

Read the original story in German

Photo - inottawa

Sign up for our weekly Global Life newsletter now


Be a part of the conversation. Click to show comments
About this article source Website: http://www.welt.de/

Die Welt (“The World”) is a German daily founded in Hamburg in 1946, and currently owned by the Axel Springer AG company, Europe's largest publishing house. Now based in Berlin, Die Welt is sold in more than 130 countries. A Sunday edition called Welt am Sonntag has been published since 1948.

Load More Stories

Unlimited access to exclusive journalism, the best world news source across all your devices

Subscribe Now Photo of Worldcrunch on different devices

Your premium access to Worldcrunch is provided by

University of Central Lancashire

Please register to begin


By registering you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.