An increasing number of wives and partners of British soldiers are requesting to have their husbands' sperm frozen before they are deployed abroad to Iraq and Afghanistan, as an 'insurance policy' that will allow them to still have their children even if they are killed or injured. To date no UK children have been born posthumously through this service, but at least four children in the US have been born using the stored sperm of fathers after they were killed in Iraq.
The London Bridge Centre fertility clinic spokesman, Tim Mott, stated that they had anticipated soldiers to be interested in the service and expected questions regarding the loss of fertility due to injury but were surprised that the overwhelming majority who contact them are the soldiers' wives and girlfriends 'quite specifically looking at the death issue'.
The clinic has begun to offer soldiers a £300 half-price discount for counselling, collection and storage of four sperm samples for one year in recognition of the fact that the basic annual salary of a private front-line soldier is only £16,227. The clinic also promotes subsidised egg-freezing, but given the small number of women serving in active duty, this remains rare.
Experts warn that use of sperm posthumously leads to tricky consent issues and is especially significant and difficult in regards to the storage and use of sperm from men in the military due to the higher marital breakdown rate among servicemen.
Yet, the Bridge Centre clinic revealed that it is now dealing with a 'significant' number of queries. A small number of Herefordshire-based soldiers are also reportedly taking advantage of the 'insurance policy' service for legal posthumous sperm storage. Dr. Gillian Lockwood, director of the Midland Fertility Clinic with bases in Wolverhampton and Aldridge, admits that the service is 'not widely known' but makes sense, 'It is always bleak to think the worst might happen, but on the other hand the chaps do feel that if they plan for the worst then the best will happen.'
Since the declaration of Iraqi sovereignty on 2 May 2003, 141 British soldiers have died in Iraq, in addition to 3,832 US soldiers. During Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, there have been 89 British military casualties since September 2002.