Department of Political Science

The Complex case of Ellie Anderson

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Ellie Anderson had always known that she wanted to have children. Her mother, Louise, was aware of this wish. Ellie was designated male at birth, but according to news sources, identified as a girl from the age of three. She was hoping to undergo gender reassignment surgery at 18, but died unexpectedly at only 16, leaving Louise grappling not only with the grief of losing her daughter, but with a complex legal problem. Ellie had had her sperm frozen before starting hormone treatment, specifically so that she would retain the chance of becoming a parent after her gender reassignment. Ellie had considered what might happen to the sperm if she died and was adamant that her children should be brought into the world. She made her mother promise to ensure that this would happen. But according to UK law, Ellie’s mother has no legal right to retain her sperm, or to use it to fulfil Ellie’s wishes. In this paper, we raise several key ethical questions on this case, namely: does a refusal to bring Ellie’s children into the world wrong her posthumously? Is Ellie’s mother morally entitled to use her daughter’s sperm as Ellie wished? Should the fact that Ellie was a minor at the time of her death or the fact that she was transgendered undermine her wish to have children? Can Ellie become a parent posthumously? We consider how these complex ethical questions could be approached.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Medical Ethics
Pages (from-to)217–221
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • bioethics, applied ethics, reproducive ethics

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