Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Company Pushes Genetic Testing On Parents For Range Of Conditions

BabyFor years, genetically testing eggs and sperm to determine what traits a child would inherit was the stuff of science fiction. Now, rapidly changing technology allows limited testing but a company claims that it can test for up to 1,000 genetic variations that could lead to health risk for children. However, at $2000 per test this is far from cheap and the benefits that it offers are debatable as the exact cause of many genetic diseases is still poorly understood.

In any event, genetic testing will have an impact on estate planning going into the future as parents decide how to treat children for inheritance purposes based on genetics rather than other, traditional metrics. For example, a couple with two children, of which one child has the genetic markers for potentially developing severe health problems later in life, may favor the potentially sick child in a will due to the perceived future need for money. While this is not yet an issue that will have to be dealt with, the future will likely make it a big player and it's never too early to think about how future testators will decide who takes what after death.

See Azeen Ghorayshi, This Company Is Trying To Make More Perfect Babies, Buzz Feed, July 12, 2015.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 22, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Alzheimer’s Association International Conference Meeting In D.C.

AlzheimersThis week more than 4,000 scientists from around the world will be meeting in D.C. for the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.  Attendants of the conference will be discussing current and future trends in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.  Right now more than 5 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s and that number is expected to rise to 13.5 million by the year 2050.  Scientists want to hurry up and find either a cure or improved treatment methods because they understand that more people are going to be diagnosed with this disease in the future.  Researchers at the conference will be representing 65 different countries with 40 percent of the attendees being international. 

See Fredrick Kunkle, Alzheimer’s scientists to meet in D.C. amid signs of progress for treatment, The Washington Post, July 18, 2015.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 19, 2015 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

New Startup Partnering With Fertility Clinic To Screen Egg And Sperm Donors For Genetic Diseases

Designer babyA new startup company called GenePeeks is partnering with the Pacific Northwest Fertility clinic in Seattle to screen donated sperm and eggs for potential genetic diseases.  Some critics have argued that this could potentially lead to people seeking to have “designer babies,” while defenders argue that this technology is simply intended to help potential parents produce a healthy child.  GenePeeks is not the first company to conduct genetic testing, but they will test for more genetic variants than any other company. 

See Azeen Ghorayshi, This Company Is Trying To Make More Perfect Babies, BuzzFeed News, July 12, 2015.

Special thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Chair GWU Law School) for bringing this article to my attention.  

July 14, 2015 in Current Affairs, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Clyde Tombaugh’s Ashes Will Fly By Pluto Today

ClydeIn 1930, a young American astronomer named Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, today his ashes will fly by the dwarf planet.  Tombaugh’s wish before passing away in 1997 was for his ashes to be sent into space.  An ounce of the astronomer’s ashes are Contained in an aluminum capsule on NASA’s New Horizon which was launched into space on 2006 and now in 2015 it is set to leave our solar system.  A live broadcast of the flyby will be broadcast on NASA TV.  This will represent a major event in the history of space exploration.

See Arden Dier, One man’s ashes will fly by Pluto on Tuesday, July 13, 2015. 

July 14, 2015 in Current Affairs, Science, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 13, 2015

California Court Will Hear Case Involving Frozen Embryos

Embryo caseA hearing has been set in a San Francisco Superior Court to decide on a precedent setting case involving the fate of frozen embryos created by a couple who are now divorced.  Mimi Lee would like to use the embryos because this is her last chance to have biological children of her own.  Her former husband Stephen Findley is seeking to have the embryos destroyed.  There is currently not much case law on these types of disputes.  This article mentions a few past cases that are similar to this one.  As more people continue to use advanced reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertilization these types of disputes will likely become more common.

See Victoria Colliver, Battle over S.F. Couple’s frozen embryos heads to court, San Francisco Chronicle, July 11, 2015.

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 13, 2015 in Current Affairs, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Court Permits Woman To Use Frozen Embryos Despite Sperm Donors Objections

Frozen embryoAn appeals court in Chicago has held that a woman may use embryos that she created with her ex-boyfriend despite his objections.  Karla Dunston, whose fertility was destroyed by cancer treatment, created frozen embryos with the sperm of her former boyfriend, Jacob Szasfranski.  The Court held that there was an oral agreement between the two parties, and it held that Dr. Dunston’s interest in using the embryos outweighed Mr. Szasfranski’s interest in not having them used.  In these sorts of disputes past Courts have tended to side with the party that does not want the embryos used.  Mr. Szasfranski intends to appeal the Chicago Courts decision. 

See Tamar Lewin, Chicago Court Gives Woman Frozen Embryos Despite Ex-Boyfriends Objections, The New York Times, June 12, 2015. 

June 13, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

HRSA Publishes Final Rule Implementing HOPE Act



T_HRSA01The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), has recently published a final rule concerning the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act (HOPE Act).  The act will modify the standards used by the Organ Procurement Transplantation Network (OPTN), and will permit organs from an individual with HIV to be transplanted into another person who is also infected with the virus as long as they participate in clinical research conducted by a review board.  The HOPE Act will give the Secretary of the HRSA discretion to decide on the criteria of the research.

See Debra A. Mccurdy, Final Rule Implements HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, Health Industry Washington Watch, May 20, 2015.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

May 23, 2015 in Current Affairs, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Parents Should Register Surrogate Children Who Were Born Abroad To Avoid Legal Problems

SurrogateA British high court judge has warned that the growing number of children born overseas through surrogacy could create “a ticking legal time bomb.”  Judge Dame Lucy Theis warns that if parents do not fill out a court sanctioned parental order application their children could end up “stateless and parentless.”  Without a parental order the child’s surrogate mother could possibly be recognized as the child’s actual parent creating a number of complex legal problems involving British citizenship.  The Judge would like parents to become more aware of the need to register a parental order as this method of reproduction continues to expand. 

See Owen Bowcott, Unregistered Surrogate-Born Children Creating ‘Legal Timebomb,’ Judge Warns, Guardian, May 18, 2015.   

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

May 20, 2015 in Current Affairs, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Composting Human Corpses

SeedlingCurrently, many farms and some state transportation departments are composting dead animals. If the Urban Death Project is successful composting dead bodies may include human ones. A research project headed by Katrina Spade in Seattle is working on a method to compost human remains.

Spade envisions the creation of Urban Death Facilities that will include individuals ceremoniously placing their deceased loved ones in the facility where the body will be composted, and then the family can retrieve some of the compost to use in their garden or to plant a memorial tree. Each core of the facility could hold up to 30 bodies. Spade is still developing the technique, and after it is developed there will be social and legal barriers to face in order to make this environmentally friendly process a reality.

See Catrin Einhorn, A Project to Turn Corpses Into Compost, New York Times, Apr. 13, 2015.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret for bringing this article to my attention.

April 15, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Article on Inheritance of Frozen Reproductive Material

McQuainElise N. McQuain (Associate Attorney, Goodwin & Goodwin, LLP, Charleston, West Virginia) recently published an article entitled, Inheritance of Frozen Reproductive Material, 40 Ohio N.U.L. Rev. 301. Provided below is an excerpt from the introduction of the article:

No obvious similarities exist between a soldier leaving for war, a woman seeking a graduate degree, a same sex couple, and a man diagnosed with cancer. Closer examination, however, reveals that these people may all have reasons to take advantage of cryopreservation. Cryopreservation can make conception a technological possibility when it is no longer possible naturally. 1 Many people cherish the idea of having children; however, a considerable number face situations that jeopardize that idea. 2

Cryopreservation is the freezing of reproductive material and is used concurrently with artificial insemination to produce children. 3 Questions regarding disposition of the frozen reproductive cells arise when a depositor of reproductive material dies and leaves behind the frozen cells. 4 Courts have struggled to address this challenge, which technological advances have created. 5 Traditional estate solutions relating to property and money seem inadequate when addressing cells with the potential for human life.

This article argues that depositors have the fundamental right to control whether they procreate after death. The best method of protecting that right is to ensure that fertility clinics, sperm banks, loved ones, executors, and courts know and honor a depositor's wishes concerning the disposition of his or her reproductive material after death. 6 The best way to effectuate that protection is to require all depositors to execute a "death clause document" at the fertility clinic or storage bank used for storage. 7 A “death clause document” is an instrument that clearly states the wishes of the depositor in case the depositor dies while his or her reproductive material is still in storage.8 This article lays out the appropriate format and execution procedure for the death clause document in order to ensure that it will be recognized as a will substitute. Using a uniform document that addresses all of the concerns and contingencies of depositor death permits the fertility clinic or storage bank to easily ascertain and follow the individual’s wishes regarding disposition of his or her reproductive cells.

March 5, 2015 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)