Japan Woman Breaks Clinic Guidelines by Using 3rd-Party Sperm for IVF Pregnancy Following Husband’s Death

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Hara Medical Clinic staff examines the condition of egg cells using a microscope in 2022.

A Tokyo-based clinic on Sunday stopped accepting new patients after a woman who concealed the death of her husband became pregnant following in vitro fertilization using third-party sperm, in violation of the institution’s own guidelines.

Hara Medical Clinic said it had unintentionally broken its own rules, which state that IVF treatment should cease in the event of spousal death.

Due to a lack of national legislation in the field, the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology does not permit IVF to be carried out with third-party sperm. However, Hara Medical Clinic established unilateral guidelines and since September 2022 has been carrying out the procedure for legally married couples in which the male lacks spermatozoa in his seminal fluid.

According to the clinic, the woman underwent treatment and became pregnant while concealing the fact that her husband was dead.

The Law on Special Provisions to the Civil Code relating to assisted reproductive technology — enacted in 2020 — stipulates that a male spouse who consents to the use of assisted reproductive technology using third-party sperm is the father of children born as a result of the procedure.

Normally, sperm donors are not required to recognize parent-child relationships. In this latest case, however, it is possible that the donor could be asked to recognize a parent-child relationship because the woman’s husband is dead.

“The rule regarding termination of treatment upon the death of a spouse is designed to protect the welfare of the unborn child and the rights of the sperm donor,” the clinic said. “It is regrettable that this rule was not understood.”