New Jersey pension board officials are considering whether to provide pension benefits for a child that was conceived through in-vitro fertilization using sperm harvested from the body of a retired Newark police captain, who died in a scuba diving accident.
The retired police captain, Gary Prystauk, was 50 at the time of the accident, in which doctors say he had a heart attack while diving in the icy Shrewsbury River in November 2006.
His widow, Francia Prystauk, says that the couple had been married for 18 years and had tried numerous times to start a family, but each attempt resulted in a miscarriage. After the accident, while she was at the hospital, she made the decision to harvest her husband’s sperm, after a business card fell out of her purse from a fertility clinic that the couple had visited earlier.
“I had a moment of clarity,” she said. “I took it as a sign.” Doctors removed a specimen about six hours after the husband’s death.
Prystauk used the specimen several months later, and the child was conceived in March 2007. Her son Jacob was born on Dec. 7, 2007.
The pension board originally denied paying benefits to her son because he was born more than one year after the death of his biological father. Her new appeal is based on a court ruling she received declaring Jacob to be the biological son of Gary Prystauk.
Prystauk, 40, is currently receiving pension benefits of $4,273.50 per month as the widow of a retired officer. She is seeking another $1,282.05 for Jacob, which he would receive until the age of 18.
A recent appellate court ruling in Philadelphia found that a child who was conceived after his father’s death was entitled to social security survivor benefits. In that case however, the sperm was donated by the father while he was still alive and the father was involved in the decision to have the child
The police and fireman’s pension board said it does not know what to do, and has turned the matter over to its attorneys to decide.
However, the widow Prystauk thinks the issue is clear: “Jacob had a father, he just happened to pass away.”