A soldier's widow has succeeded in having sperm taken from his body and frozen four days after he was slain in Iraq, though medical experts said it's highly unlikely she would be able to bear his child.
Sgt. Dayne Darren Dhanoolal, 26, died March 31 when an explosive detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad. He had talked often with his wife Kynesha about having children, according to court papers filed by her lawyer.
On Friday, a federal judge in Columbus, Ga., granted her request for a temporary restraining order preventing the military from embalming the body until after samples of Dhanoolal's sperm were extracted. The samples were taken later that day and are in the custody of a medical representative for the widow, who is hoping to be inseminated even though fertility experts said the procedure almost certainly would not work with her late husband's sperm.
"It's not viable," Dr. Andrew McCullough, associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine, said Monday.
Dr. John Park, a fertility expert and assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine, said there have been reports of viable sperm being retrieved up to 36 hours after a man's death. But he said it is "highly unlikely" any viable sperm could be retrieved four days later.
Recovery of viable sperm appears relatively uncommon after 24 hours post-mortem unless the body has been cooled, the Cornell site says. It was not known what, if any, precautions were taken to keep Dhanoolal's body sufficiently cool before his sperm were extracted.
Despite the odds, Kynesha Dhanoolal persuaded the judge to allow the sperm to be collected. Dhanoolal did not have a will but had signed a military form designating his mother, Monica Brown, to handle disposition of his remains.
His widow asserted in court papers that Brown initially did not agree with her wishes.
However, "There's no battle anymore," Kynesha Dhanoolal said Monday after speaking with her mother-in-law over the weekend.
The widow's attorney, Frank Myers, said emotions got in the way of reaching an agreement earlier. Now, "I think everybody is on the same page," he said.
Brown did not return two calls to her Killeen, Texas, home on Monday.
As of Monday, no agreement had been filed with the court, which will determine who gets possession of the sperm.
"Hopefully, the peace will last and everybody will be happy in the end," Myers said.
Dhanoolal was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, in west Georgia. Fort Benning spokeswoman Monica Manganaro said she was not aware of another time where the widow of a soldier stationed at the base made such a request.
"This is strictly a personal choice of the family and not something we're involved with," Manganaro said.
Dhanoolal's body was to be flown Monday from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to Texas, where a funeral is planned this Friday, according to the widow's family.
The widow's mother, Yvonne Watkins, said her daughter hopes to have her husband's sperm artificially inseminated as early as this summer.
"We're trying to honor my daughter and Darren's wishes," Watkins said. "All of his comrades and anyone who knew them knew he wanted children."