Monday, 18 January 2016

The Sperm donation was rotten                      

A sperm bank, semen bank or cryobank is a facility or enterprise that collects and stores human sperm from sperm donors for use by women who need donor-provided sperm to achieve pregnancy. Sperm donated by the sperm donor is known as donor sperm, and the process for introducing the sperm into the woman is called artificial insemination, which is a form of third party reproduction.                

Sperm banks enable greater control, especially in relation to the access and timing of pregnancies, since they check and screen potential donors, and provide formerly infertile couples or single women the chance to have babies. Sometimes controversy stems from the fact that donors are willing to father children for others and usually take no part in the upbringing of such children, and also from the fact that some places coupled lesbians can use sperm banks in order to have their own biological children. Donors may not have a say in who may use their sperm.

The increasing range of services which is available through sperm banks nevertheless enables more couples to have choices over the whole issue of reproduction. Women may choose to use an anonymous donor who will not be a part of family life, or they may choose known donors who may be contacted later in life by the donor children. Women may choose to use a surrogate to bear their children, using eggs provided by the woman and sperm from a donor. Sperm banks often provide services which enable a woman to have subsequent pregnancies by the same donor, but equally, women may choose to have children by a number of different donors. Sperm banks sometimes enable a woman to choose the sex of her child, enabling even greater control over the way families are planned. Sperm banks increasingly adopt a less formal approach to the provision of their services thereby enabling people to take a relaxed approach to their own individual requirements.

Men who choose to donate sperm through a sperm bank also have the security of knowing that they are helping women or childless couples to have children in circumstances where they, as the biological father, will not have any legal or other responsibility for the children produced from their sperm. Whether a donor is anonymous or not, this factor is important in allowing sperm banks to recruit sperm donors and to use their sperm to produce whatever number of pregnancies from each donor as are permitted where they operate, or alternatively, whatever number they decide.

However, in many parts of the world, sperm banks are not allowed to be established or to operate. Further, sperm banks do not provide a cure for infertility in that it is the sperm donor who reproduces himself, not a partner of the recipient woman. Most societies are built upon the family model and sperm banks may be seen as a threat to this, particularly where a sperm bank makes its services available to unmarried women.

Where sperm banks are allowed to operate they are often controlled by local legislation which is primarily intended to protect the unborn child, but which may also provide a compromise between the conflicting views which surround their operation.

A particular example of this is the control which is often placed on the number of children which a single donor may father and which may be designed to protect against  consanguinity. (blood relation)  However, such legislation usually cannot prevent a sperm bank from supplying donor sperm outside the jurisdiction in which it operates, and neither can it prevent sperm donors from donating elsewhere during their lives. There is an acute shortage of sperm donors in many parts of the world and there is obvious pressure from many quarters for donor sperm from those willing and able to provide it to be made available as safely and as freely as possible.

There are really some very bad sperm donors. A sperm donor from Michigan passed on a rare and potentially deadly genetic disorder to five of his donor children.  The disorder, called “severe congenital neutropenia”, affects only one in five million newborns.  Those with the disorder lack a certain type of white blood cell, and this leaves them vulnerable to a host of infections and also leukemia.  Fortunately medication, albeit at $200 a day, can keep white blood cell counts high. The unsuspecting recipient couples were subsequently faced with enormous costs.                                                                        

The sperm bank only screened for ten of the most common hereditary diseases and hadn’t screened the disease that infected the five newborns.  Sperm banks can't be expected to screen for rare genetic disorders when there are so many more pressing concerns to find out about the donor, such as baldness, salary history, hobbies and taste in clothing.      

Two Canadian women, Angela Collins and Margaret Elizabeth Hanson living together as a married couple living in Port Hope, in the province of Ontario wanted a baby so they went to a sperm bank called Xytex in the American State of Georgia. Today, more than 70 percent of sperm recipients are lesbian couples or single women.         

The sperm bank promoted a particular donor's sperm, saying it came from a man with an IQ of 160, (a genius) an undergraduate degree in neuroscience and a master's degree in artificial intelligence and who was pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience engineering.

Anyone with that kind of background is sure to pass his genes onto his child. The women were excited and agreed that one of them would be artificially impregnated by that man`s sperm.

Xytex President Kevin O'Brien later said that the sperm donor had a standard medical exam, provided extensive personal information, said he had no physical or medical impairments, and provided photos of himself and copies of his undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Were those submissions by this particular donor sufficient? Apparently not. Almost seven years after Collins gave birth to a son conceived with 9623's sperm, the women got a batch of emails from the sperm bank that unexpectedly — and perhaps mistakenly — included the donor's name.

That unexpected information set them on a sleuthing mission that quickly revealed that donor 9623 is schizophrenic, dropped out of college and had been arrested for burglary. And on top of that, the photo of him they'd seen when deciding on a donor had been altered to remove a large mole on his cheek. Further, the misrepresented donor was also the biological father of at least three dozen children. 

A 2011 story in The New York Times about a donor who fathered 150 children cited growing concerns about potential risks from sperm donors siring too many kids, including the possible spread of rare genetic diseases or unintentional incest.

In the U.S. most sperm banks restrict each contributor from creating no more than 25 families, and some even place the limit at 10. But to make extra certain that no men somehow skirt around existing rules by making shady deposits at scattered clinics, Fairfax is about to team with other top sperm banks to launch a national database of sperm donors. The main purpose will be to better track who has contributed, where and when those men bestowed their living gifts, and block any donors from leaving their samples at multiple banks. One of the main objectives is to have a centralized location for all records.

The couple is now seeking damages for pain, suffering and financial losses as it alleges Xytex Corp. engaged in fraud, misrepresentation, negligence and battery, among other claims. The claim for battery is based on the fact that the mother of the boy was impregnated under false pretenses.  The term is used more generally to refer to any unlawful offensive physical contact with another person. The key word is ‘offensive’.

Xytex President Kevin O'Brien recently posted an open letter on the on the company's website in which he wrote that the couple's claims do not reflect the representations provided to Xytex.

He further stated that the couple was "clearly informed that the representations were reported by the donor and were not verified by Xytex.

In my opinion, that isn’t a real defence for Xytex. For example, if a car dealer sells you a new car that is defective because of sloppy workmanship by the manufacturer; this doesn’t mean that the manufacturer isn’t liable for repairs to correct the faulty workmanship. If a sperm bank accepts donors who are infected with a disease, and they don’t check to see if the sperm is disease free, this doesn’t mean that they are not liable to the recipient of the donated sperm. 

Nancy Hersh, a lawyer for the pair, contends that the women believed Xytex had vetted donor 9623. Now I realize that the couple wrongfully presumed that Xytex had properly vetted donor 6923 but does that leave Xytex off the hook?

I don’t think so. When you visit a doctor, you presume that he is healthy. If he passes on a disease to you, he can’t disavow any responsibility towards you because you didn’t ask him if he was diseased. It follows that if a recipient receives a donor sperm, that recipient has the right to presume that the donor is who he claims he is.

For example, if the donor is black and the recipient is white, can the sperm bank disavow any responsibility for this blunder if they didn’t vet the donor and instead accepted the photo showing the black donor as being a white donor? I hardly think not.

 Incidentally, a white Ohio mom sued a sperm bank for sending her vials from a black donor, saying her biracial 2-year-old daughter will be stigmatized by her family and the intolerant town where they live and has to travel to get her hair done. Jennifer Cramblett thought she was being inseminated with a white man's sperm in 2011 and only discovered after she was pregnant that the Midwest Sperm Bank sent the wrong batch, according to the lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court. The child, Payton, is now 2 years old and already experiencing prejudice in Uniontown, where 98 percent of the residents are white. Not all her friends and family members are racially sensitive.

These two unfortunate mothers are suffering from the mistakes of the sperm banks that were careless in the manner in which they dealt with the recipient mothers.  It was not like the two women were ordering pizzas.

Unfortunately for Angela Collins and Margaret Elizabeth Hanson, the American judge who heard their case, tossed out their claim against Xytex. Judge Robert McBurney at the request of Xytex stated as their grounds that their claim was routed on the basis of wrongful birth, a claim that is not recognized by Georgia law. The women`s lawyer is appealing that decision.

In my opinion, they should have sued Xytex on the basis that they were sold the sperm under false pretenses when Xytex told the women that the donated sperm came from a man with an IQ of 160, (a genius) an undergraduate degree in neuroscience and a master's degree in artificial intelligence and who was pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience engineering—all of which was an outright lie.

Xytex touted that particular donor as the firm`s best donor. If he is the best they have, I hate to think about what the rest of them are like. 

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