A Texas mother who tragically lost her 21-year-old son hopes that she will be able to raise her grandchildren after a judge granted her request to posthumously harvest sperm from his body.
“It would help to heal my heart somewhat,” Marissa Evans told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Thursday from Bedford, Texas, during an exclusive interview.
Evans’ son, Nikolas Colton Evans, died Sunday in an Austin hospital, two weeks after he was punched outside an Austin bar early in the morning of March 27. His heart was kept beating until Monday, when Evans gave permission to doctors to harvest his organs. But she also wanted to harvest his sperm.
Legal experts say that there have been cases where permission was granted to harvest sperm from others after their deaths, but none had involved a mother and her son. Evans was initially told by medical personnel they could not do it, and she went to court to get permission, which was granted Monday. A urologist performed the procedure Wednesday, but published reports say the viability of the sperm has not been confirmed.
“It really wasn’t difficult,” Evans said of her decision. “It was something that he’d talked about since he was a little boy. I always dreamed about watching my children have children of their own … What was difficult was actually losing my son and not being able to see him graduate from college and get married and have children the way other people have children. The whole process has been horrific; this had actually given me a bit of a bright light at the end of this devastating experience.”
Evans, who has one other son, age 22, told the Austin American-Statesman newspaper that Nikolas wanted to have three sons someday and had even picked out their names: Hunter, Tod and Van.
She described Nikolas as an athletic and quick-witted young man who loved to write and who was planning to go to film school.
“He was compassionate. He loved to help me with animal rescue; liked to write comedy skits,” Evans told Lauer. “He was very deep, very artsy — kind of an old soul, very worldly, loved to talk about politics with his friends and get into heated discussions about that.”
Lauer asked Evans if she had wrestled with the ethics of her decision.
“I have thoughts about it,” she said calmly. “Of course … his first choice would not be to have children like this. He would want to raise his children, but the bottom line is he can’t. Somebody took that opportunity away from him. As the mother to a son I knew so well, I feel he would have wanted me to do this.”
Nikolas hadn’t declared himself as an organ donor, but his mother authorized doctors to harvest his organs.
“I was able to donate his organs to help other people live. He would believe in this and want me to help him live on as well,” she said.
Evans was joined by Mark Mueller, the Los Angeles lawyer who successfully argued her petition. He said it wasn’t a complicated issue.
“There wasn’t anybody that objected to it. It was a fairly straightforward procedure,” Mueller told Lauer. “It was just a matter of proving some legal justification for the physicians to go forward without concern that they would be getting into some deep water. It’s not that complicated. It’s what the son would have wanted as far as we know, and what the mom wanted.”
Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman ruled Monday in an emergency hearing requested by the mother, because of the urgency of collecting the sperm intact.
Court documents said the sperm had to be collected within 24 hours of Nikolas Evans’ being removed from life support unless the body was cooled to no more than 39.2 degrees.
University of Texas law professor John Robertson, who specializes in bioethics, said state law gives parents control over a child's body for organ and tissue donations but its use for sperm “is very unclear … There are no strong precedents in favor of a parent being able to request post-mortem sperm retrieval,” he said.
No arrests have been made in the assault on Nikolas Evans. Investigators said Evans hit his head on the ground after he was punched during an argument with a group of men.
Published reports quote Marissa Evans as saying she will probably engage a surrogate to carry a baby, if one can be conceived. She intends to raise her grandchild herself.
Lauer asked her if she intends to begin the fertilization process sooner rather than later.
“Yes,” she said. “Definitely.”
—The Associated Press contributed to this report.