Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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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)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Three Parent Babies Opposed by EU MEPs

LawAs I have previously discussed, in early February Britain's House of Commons voted in favor of a bill that would allow the genetic modification of babies to prevent birth defects, which would result in the children having the DNA of three individuals.  In response, 50 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voiced their concern over the proposed law through a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron. The letter describes the procedure as a violation of human dignity and that the "proposals violate the fundamental standards of human dignity and integrity of the person. Modification of the genome is unethical and cannot be permitted."

See Sarah Knapton, Three Parent Babies: Britain Has Breached EU Law, MEPs Warn, The Telegraph, Feb. 21, 2015.

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

March 4, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Study on Tax Subsidies, Charitable Giving, Health

HealthA recent research study authored by Baris K. Yörük and published in the Journal of Economic Psychology looked at the link between tax subsidies and health. The study combined ideas that charitable giving increases health of the donor and charitable tax subsidies increase charitable giving, and the results suggest that increasing charitable tax subsidies will result in better self-reported health.

See Lisa Ward, Does Charitable Giving Lead to Better Health?, The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 1, 2015.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

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

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

25 Years of Organ Donations Equal 2.2M Years of Saved Lives

HealthA recently published study in Jama Surgery entitled Survival Benefit of Solid-Organ Transplant in the United States calculated the life saving impact of organ donations. According to the study, organ transplants done in the last 25 years in America have given the gift of an additional 2.2 million years of life. On average a single organ transplant results in an additional 4.3 years of life to the recipient.

See Arden Dier, Newser, Organ Donors Have Added 2.2M Years to American Lives, Fox News, Jan. 30, 2015.

February 3, 2015 in Articles, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Future Alzheimer's Diagnosis May be Predicted by Blood Test

Blood testNew research on Alzheimer's detection has revealed that a blood test can detect the disease 10 years prior to diagnosis. The researchers that tested for the protein IRS-1 in 174 individuals were able to predict whether each individual had Alzheimer's, even when diagnosis of the disease was 10 years away. The research has raised ethical questions over whether it is more harmful than helpful for individuals to know years in the future that they will develop the disease without any clear preventative measures to take.

See Stephanie Guzowski, Predicting Alzheimer's Disease With Blood Tests: Early Detection, Ethical Concerns, Bioscience Technology, Dec. 4, 2014.

January 9, 2015 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Science | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Dying Over Divorce


According to a new study, divorce could kill you. 

This research comes as lawyers get ready for a surge in inquiries from married couples planning to split up after the holidays.  The number of people wanting to start divorce proceedings is said to peak on the first working Monday after New Year—dubbed “Divorce Day.” 

A growing body of research links divorce to negative health effects and early death.  Authors of a study published in the journal Health Psychology suggest divorce related sleep troubles are partly to blame.  “In the initial few months after a separation, sleep problems are probably pretty normal, and this is an adjustment process that people can typically cope with well.  But sleep problems that persist for an extended period may mean something different.  It may mean that people are potentially becoming depressed, that they’re struggling with getting their life going again, and it is these people that are particularly susceptible to health problems.” 

See Angus Howarth, Why Getting Divorce Could Just Kill You, The Scotsman, Jan. 3, 2015. 

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

January 3, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Aging Process Linked to Parent's Age

AgingA recently published study out of Lund University reveals that the aging process for an individual is based on a combination of hereditary and non- hereditary factors that come from one's parents. The aging process is linked to the length of the person's telomeres, or the ends of chromosomes. The longer the length of the telomeres, the longer the chromosomes are protected from sticking together and continue proper functioning. In the 30 year study of birds, great reed warblers, the researchers found that the age of one parent seems to be at least one factor in the length of an offspring's telomeres. The older mother birds had offspring with longer telomeres. While a similar link is seen in human's, the  link is to the father's older age.

See, How Fast You Age Depends On Your Parents, Science Blog, Dec. 11, 2014.

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

December 13, 2014 in Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Scientific Backing For Near-Death Experiences

ScienceResearch out of the University of Southampton, located in Southampton, England, reveals that consciousness may continue for a short time after death. Scientists discovered that 40% of the survivors in their study of over 2,000 individuals who were declared dead for a period of time, described being aware of the experience. One individual in the study was able to describe the actions by medical staff in detail during the time he was considered dead, and is believed to have had conscious awareness for as long as three minutes.

See The Telegraph, Largest Study Into Near-Death Experiences Discovers Awareness May continue Even After the Brain Shuts Down, National Post, Oct. 7, 2014.

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

October 8, 2014 in Current Affairs, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Anticipated Vote on Mitochondrial Replacement In UK May Be Delayed

DNAAs I have previously discussed, the UK is considering legalizing a procedure called mitochondrial replacement, which is used to prevent mitochondrial disease in babies born to mothers who carry the genes for the disease. It works by replacing genes in the mother's egg with those of another woman that does not carry the mitochondrial disease gene. Babies born from this procedure have three genetic parents.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, a government watchdog group, announced in July that its research found the procedure “not unsafe” and gave approval for Members of Parliament to vote on whether to make the procedure legal. However, opponents, including many scientists, are asking for the vote to be delayed until further research can be done.

See Jonathan Petre & Stephen Adams, Bid to Delay ‘Three Parent Babies’ Through IVF as Tests Find Fears Could Suffer Reduced Fertility, Learning Difficulties and Even Cancer, Daily Mail, Oct. 4, 2014.

October 6, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Article on Defining Parentage for Lenders of Genetic Material

Lynda Wray BlackLynda Wray Black (University of Memphis - Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law) recently published an article entitled, The Birth of a Parent: Defining Parentage for Lenders of Genetic Material, Nebraska Law Review, Vol. 92, 2014. Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

With the advances in assisted reproductive technology, the scholarly quest for an all-inclusive legal definition of parentage has proliferated. All too often this quest becomes muddled in Constitutional tangles, in shifting mores, in quagmires of evolving and inconsistent legal parameters on what constitutes a “family”, and in the perceived need to reconcile conflicting state laws governing marriage, adoption and surrogacy contracts. This article suggests a return to the basics. Parents are born with the birth of a child. Notwithstanding the scientific breakthroughs in reproductive technology and the more inclusive modern understanding of the family unit, every child begins with two (and only two) suppliers of genetic material and one (and only one) gestational carrier. Thus, the only logically clear starting point for a legal definition of parentage begins with these three claim-holders to parentage. Once the examination of the concept of parentage is disentangled from the complications of related, but logically independent, legal questions, it becomes clear that unless and until the rights and obligations of parentage are either (voluntarily) contractually waived or (involuntarily) judicially or statutorily terminated, the law must recognize as parent any individual (regardless of his or her gender, sexual orientation or marital status) who is biologically related to a child.

September 14, 2014 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)