Widow’s bid to use sperm harvested from dead husband

A Queensland widow has asked the Supreme Court for the green light to use her late husband's sperm harvested just hours after he died unexpectedly from a heart attack aged 38

Dr Jennifer Johanna Gaffney, 35, an anaethetist and mother of one from Coorparoo, told the court she wants to forge ahead with her husband Daniel's dream of having two or three children.

She said she wanted to have a sibling for their son Nate, who was 18 months old when his father died.

Daniel, a dermatologist, died on November 5 or 6 last year from a coronary artery dissection which causes heart attack.

He was staying at a hotel in Birtinya while working at the Sunshine Coast university hospital for work.

Hours after he died Dr Gaffney called her fertility doctor, Dr Clare Boothroyd who agreed to contact the coroner to request the removal of Daniel's sperm.

His right testicle was removed at the hospital on November 7, then was frozen and transported to Care Fertility in Greenslopes, she told the court.

Dr Gaffney was forced to go to court for permission because there are no laws in Queensland which apply to the use of sperm after death.

Jennifer Johanna Gaffney and husband Daniel on their wedding day.
Jennifer Johanna Gaffney and husband Daniel on their wedding day.

In the case of Toowoomba woman Ayla Cresswell last year a Supreme court judge said that the state's parliament likely needs to resolve legal issues about Queensland women's rights to access their dead partners sperm.

Dr Gaffney told the court that Daniel's mother Vivienne and his siblings were all aware that she was applying to use his sperm and supported her application.

"My loss of Dan is not only the loss of my partner and best friend, but also the loss of the life we had so carefully planned and so determinedly worked towards.

"I have thought long and hard about whether this application will be positive on the lives of myself and Nate, together with our extended family.

"I have firmly formed the view that not only is this what Dan would want, it is what I want in his absence. I also strongly believe that another child will be in the best interests of Nate.

"I am very acutely aware that Nate's life, and my own, will never be quite as good as it should have been," she wrote in court documents.

"He will never know, first hand, Dan's humour and quick wit and incredible kindness. He will always only have on parent, trying to act as two.

"But I feel such hope and optimism that I may be in a position to add to our family, just as dan and I had discussed and so carefully planned.

"I accept that if my application is successful and I am fortunate enough to have another child and member of our family, that child will ultimately find out the circumstances of having been fathered by Dan posthumously. I intend to seek specialist counselling to assist with how and when I should let the child know of the circumstances of his or her birth."

"I am acutely aware that having another child as a solo parent will be extremely challenging. I am confident, however that I have the personal strength as well as the community support.

"The biggest reason I have for taking on this challenge is to provide Nate with a sibling, as I know it will provide him with the opportunity to form the same friendships and bonds that Dan and I formed and treasured with our own siblings," she told the court.

Dr Gaffney said she had had problems with conceiving a child before Daniel died and was about to receive injections for follicle stimulation.

She and Daniel met at medical school in London and were together for 12 years, and married for five years when he died. They migrated to Queensland from England in 2008.

She currently works three days a week at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane as an anaethetist.

She told the court they both come from big family's and she has the support of her sister living in Brisbane.

The case is due in court for hearing on Friday.

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