As Vietnamese investigators try to determine how exactly an inmate on death row managed to get herself pregnant, a senior health official has suggested a paternity test to help crack the very unusual case.
Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Viet Tien said the test can be conducted after Nguyen Thi Hue, 42, gives birth in April.
“A DNA test now is totally possible but may lead to a miscarriage and other health problems,” Tien said.
The case has grabbed headlines recently after police in the central province of Quang Ninh confirmed that Hue is pregnant.
The woman from Lang Son Province was arrested in Quang Ninh in 2012 for drug trafficking. She was found guilty and sentenced to death in 2014.
Investigators said that Hue had been trying to buy semen from several male inmates for self-insemination, apparently in an attempt to avoid the death sentence.
Only Nguyen Tuan Hung, 27, admitted that he had given his semen and syringes to Hue twice in August 2015, for a total of VND50 million, or over US$2,200.
In Vietnam, a pregnant woman or a mother whose child is less than 36 months old cannot be sentenced to death. Death sentences, if already handed down, will have to be commuted to life imprisonment.
According to Quang Ninh police, death row inmates must be jailed separately and are not allowed to contact other prisoners.
However, Hue was jailed with other female inmates and was given more freedom, reportedly due to an overload of death row inmates. The provincial police’s prison was keeping nearly 80 death row inmates, including 12 women.
Meanwhile, many doctors are suspicious of Hue's claims that she successfully inseminated herself.
Tien from the health ministry said that theoretically, sperm can survive for two to three hours, but the success rate of fertility in a case like this is only 1 percent.
“Even hospitals with modern techniques and equipment, the fertility rate remains below 50 percent,” he said.
Colonel Le Manh Thang of Quang Ninh Police Department said police are still investigating.
No warden or guard has been officially linked to the case so far.