SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Supreme Court ruled Friday that a Utah boy who was conceived with the frozen sperm of his dead father does not qualify for Social Security survivor’s benefits.
Gayle Burns had been trying to get survivor’s benefits for a son who was conceived with her husband’s sperm two years after the husband died of infection caused by a stem-cell transplant.
Michael Burns had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or cancer of lymphoid tissue. He signed a contract to leave the preserved, frozen sperm to his wife if he died.
Gayle Burns has said her husband didn’t expect to die, because he had been cancer free, or to have to make legal arrangements to preserve Social Security benefits for his future son. Michael Burns died in 2001.
But the state court ruled unanimously Friday that the contract he signed to donate sperm did not automatically make Michael Burns a parent for purposes of Social Security benefits.
“The Agreement in question makes no mention of the donor’s consent to be a parent of a child using his preserved semen,” Associate Chief Justice Ronald E. Nehring wrote for the court.
The decision wasn’t necessarily a surprise. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that children conceived by artificial insemination after their fathers died aren’t automatically entitled to benefits, finding that state laws govern survivor eligibility for Social Security benefits.
Michael Burns would have had to make clear in a sperm storage contract that he would be the natural father of any child born after his death, and he didn’t do that, Gayle Burns’ attorney, William Hadley, said after the federal court ruling.
Hadley did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment Friday.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)