Shen Jie and Liu Xi died in a road traffic accident on 20 March 2013, just five days before they were scheduled to transplant fertilized embryos, as part of medically assisted reproductive treatment. Neither had any siblings. Their four parents had lost their entire family.
Despite legal complications, the parents took every step to recover the embryos which were eventually sent to a hospital in Laos. The embryos were then implanted in a Laotian surrogate mother through a surrogacy agency. The pregnancy was monitored closely and “received special care apart from other surrogate mothers”. After a costly four-year legal battle, a baby boy, Tiantian—which means sweetness in Mandarin—was born on 9 December 2017, “in the hopes of bringing happiness and sweetness to the bereaved families”, explained the baby’s grandmother.
In an initial hearing, the Yixing People’s Court had rejected the grandparents’ request, arguing that, as embryos constituted a life-form, they could not be “inherited like other objects”. However, during a second hearing it was finally held that “the embryos left by Shen and Liu are the only carriers of the two families’ bloodlines, and they carry the memories of their parents and can provide emotional consolation to them”.
The grandfather is well aware of the fact that “This boy is [destined to be] sad upon his arrival into the world. He does not have parents”. He plans to tell his grandson the truth when he is older. Until then he will be told that his parents are abroad.