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Making 'bad' deaths 'good': The kinship consequences of posthumous conception

Simpson, R.



Recent developments in assisted reproduction mean that a child may now be born long after its father's demise. Acts of posthumous conception raise a host of complex ethical and social issues. The article draws attention to these by means of an analysis of the medical, legal, and political commentaries generated by the case of Diane Blood in her dispute with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which had prevented her from using her deceased husband's sperm to become pregnant. Analysis of this and similar cases reveals that the desire for offspring following the death of a husband or partner has significant consequences for notions of marriage, paternity, memoriam, and inheritance .The article identifies as an underlying theme in acts of posthumous conception an attempt to ameliorate the grief of a widow, a family, and the wider society by making 'bad' deaths to some extent 'good'. To achieve this transformation the meaning of sperm within reproductive transactions is subject to radical reinterpretations which simultaneously commodotize and sacralize human gametes.


Simpson, R. (2001). Making 'bad' deaths 'good': The kinship consequences of posthumous conception. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 7(1), 1-18.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2001
Deposit Date Aug 1, 2008
Journal Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Print ISSN 1359-0987
Electronic ISSN 1467-9655
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue 1
Pages 1-18
Keywords Kinship, Posthumous conception, Mourning, Assisted reproduction.
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