Article Text

Download PDFPDF
The complex case of Ellie Anderson
  1. Joona Räsänen1,2,
  2. Anna Smajdor1
  1. 1 Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  2. 2 Faculty of Social Sciences, Tampere University, Tampere, Pirkanmaa, Finland
  1. Correspondence to Joona Räsänen, Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas, University of Oslo, 0315 Oslo, Norway; joona.rasanen{at}


Ellie Anderson had always known that she wanted to have children. Her mother, Louise, was aware of this wish. Ellie was designated male at birth, but according to news sources, identified as a girl from the age of three. She was hoping to undergo gender reassignment surgery at 18, but died unexpectedly at only 16, leaving Louise grappling not only with the grief of losing her daughter, but with a complex legal problem. Ellie had had her sperm frozen before starting hormone treatment, specifically so that she would retain the chance of becoming a parent after her gender reassignment. Ellie had considered what might happen to the sperm if she died and was adamant that her children should be brought into the world. She made her mother promise to ensure that this would happen. But according to UK law, Ellie’s mother has no legal right to retain her sperm, or to use it to fulfil Ellie’s wishes. In this paper, we raise several key ethical questions on this case, namely: does a refusal to bring Ellie’s children into the world wrong her posthumously? Is Ellie’s mother morally entitled to use her daughter’s sperm as Ellie wished? Should the fact that Ellie was a minor at the time of her death or the fact that she was transgendered undermine her wish to have children? Can Ellie become a parent posthumously? We consider how these complex ethical questions could be approached.

  • reproductive medicine
  • children
  • competence/incompetence
  • ethics
  • artificial insemination and surrogacy

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Contributors JR proposed a collaboration. Both authors wrote and edited the manuscript equally and accepted the final version.

  • Funding UiO Life Science Convergence Project: Epigenetics and bioethics of human embryonic development.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Linked Articles

Other content recommended for you