Woodward v. Commissioner of Social Security
Massachusetts. Supreme Judicial Court
West's North Eastern Reporter, 2d series, 2002; 760: 257-272
Court Decision: 760 North Eastern Reporter, 2d Series 257; 2002 January 2 (date of decision). The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that the plaintiff's children could inherit Social Security benefits from their deceased father if they were shown to be genetically related to the decedent and if the plaintiff could show the posthumously conceived children were conceived with her husband's affirmative consent to reproduce and support any resulting children. Upon learning that he had leukemia, plaintiff Lauren Woodward's husband decided to bank his sperm. Mr. Woodward's cancer treatment was not successful, and he died in October 1993. Two years later, in October 1995, the plaintiff gave birth to twin girls conceived through artificial insemination using her deceased husband's sperm. The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts certified the question of the posthumously conceived children's inheritance rights under intestacy to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. The state court held that, because death dissolves a marriage, posthumously conceived children are nonmarital children. As such, the genetic paternity of posthumously conceived children is a necessary prerequisite for inheritance. Secondly, in recognition of an individual's protected right to control the use of his gametes, the prospective donor parent "must clearly and unequivocally consent not only to posthumous reproduction but also to the support of any resulting child." [KIE]
Date of Decision: 2002 January 2
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