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.
On Friday, a federal judge in Columbus, Ga., granted her request for a temporary restraining order preventing the military from embalming the body until samples of Sgt. 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.
Sperm maintain nearly normal movement and some function for the first three hours after a man's death. After that, their movement and viability declines, according to the Web site for the department of urology at Cornell University's Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College.
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 Sgt. Dhanoolal's body sufficiently cool before his sperm were extracted.
Despite the odds, Mrs. Dhanoolal persuaded the judge to allow the sperm to be collected. Sgt. 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 Ms. Brown initially did not agree with her wishes.
However, "There's no battle anymore," Mrs. Dhanoolal said Monday after speaking with her mother-in-law over the weekend.
As of Monday, no agreement had been filed with the court, which will determine who gets possession of the sperm.