Wednesday, April 08, 2009
The mother of a 21-year-old assault victim who died of his injuries received permission Tuesday for his sperm to be collected post-mortem, giving her the chance to have a grandchild through a surrogate mother.
Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman ordered the medical examiner's office to maintain the body of Nikolas Colton Evans until his sperm can be taken.
Herman also said officials at the office must provide access so an expert can take the specimen.
Herman issued the orders after an emergency hearing at the request of Marissa Evans, whose son died Sunday after being punched and falling during a March 27 assault on East Sixth Street.
"I want him to live on," Evans said. "I want to keep a piece of him."
She said that her son had frequently talked about his desire to have three sons and had chosen their names: Hunter, Tod and Van.
Marissa Evans and her attorneys were trying Tuesday to find a urologist or other medical expert willing to collect the sperm. According to medical experts and published reports, whether such sperm is useful often depends on how quickly it is collected after death.
University of Texas law professor John Robertson, who specializes in bioethics, said that state law gives parents control over a child's body for donation of organs and tissues but that "this use is very unclear."
"There are no strong precedents in favor of a parent being able to request post-mortem sperm retrieval," he said.
Police have said Nikolas Evans was leaving a bar with a friend about 2 a.m. last month when they got into an argument with several men.
After that argument, police have said, another group approached Evans and his friend, and one of the men in that group hit both of them. Evans hit his head on the ground after he was punched, according to investigators.
No arrests have been made in the case.
Evans was taken to University Medical Center at Brackenridge, where he remained until his death.
Marissa Evans, who donated her son's organs, said she repeatedly asked whether his sperm could be taken during the donation process Monday but was told it was not possible.
Michelle Segovia, spokeswoman for the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, said the organization deals in procuring major life-saving organs but provides families with information about a company that performs sperm collections.
She said the organization has gotten three or four such requests in recent years.
Evans said she was unable to find someone to collect the sperm Monday. Early Tuesday, she contacted Austin attorney Mark Mueller and asked whether he could help her file court papers to seek her son's sperm.
"I can understand her situation," Mueller said. "She has just lost her son, and she knew her son wanted to have children."
Mueller said he asked Herman for an emergency hearing, after which the judge granted the request.
"His mother wanted it done," Herman said. "There were other body harvesting that was going to take place, and I didn't see why this additional body harvesting shouldn't take place."
According to court documents, donation workers began taking Nikolas Evans' organs at noon Monday and continued until 9 p.m., at which time he was removed from life support.
Court documents said that it was essential for Evans' sperm be collected within 24 hours of him being removed from life support unless his body were cooled to no more than 39.2 degrees.
Herman said the body is being kept at the appropriate temperature.
"Irreparable harm will be caused by the failure to harvest the sperm prior to that time," documents said.
Attorneys representing Marissa Evans had initially asked that the medical examiner's office collect the specimen, but Herman said the agency wasn't equipped to do so.
Dr. Elizabeth Houser, a urologist for the Urology Team in Austin, said she is familiar with a case in which a man's sperm was collected 30 hours after his death and stored for 15 months before a woman was inseminated.
Evans, who also has a 22-year-old son, described Nikolas Evans as a quick-witted aspiring filmmaker who recently had been accepted into film school at the University of California at Los Angeles.
A memorial service is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Shepherd of Life Lutheran Church in Arlington.
"He was just a pleasure to know," Marissa Evans said. "It was evident in the fact that at any given time, there were 15 to 20 kids at the hospital waiting to see if he was OK.
"He was just an all-around good kid."