Single women, lesbian couples, and infertile couples are increasingly relying on sperm banks to start families. For many, the clinics have helped make dreams come true. But for others, using them can be more like a nightmare.
CCTV America’s Karina Huber reports.
Sperm bank lawsuits: Families claim donor sample misuseSingle women, lesbian couples, and infertile couples are increasingly relying on sperm banks to start families. For many, the clinics have helped make dreams come true. But for others, using them can be more like a nightmare. CCTV America’s Karina Huber reports.
A new wave of lawsuits has emerged highlighting the risks of using a sperm bank. Some clinics are accused of shoddy record-keeping that have led to the loss or misuse of samples. Others are accused of giving clients the wrong sperm and in the case of one facility allegedly lying about its donors.
Xytex, in the state of Georgia, allegedly marketed sperm from a neuroscientist donor with a genius level IQ when in reality the donor was a felon with a history of schizophrenia, a mental disorder that’s hereditary. He has fathered at least 36 children.
Eight families represented by Nancy Hersh are suing the facility claiming staff members fabricated his IQ and were negligent.
“They had his name. They merely needed to go online. His whole felony record’s online. You can get it in five minutes. They needed to call the University of Georgia, they would’ve learned he never had a degree of any kind, never mind a Ph.D., and had they gone to his felony record, they would have learned about his schizophrenia,” Hersh said.
Xytex denied wrongdoing and said it followed industry standards. Standards that bioethicist Arthur Caplan said are very low and highlight how loosely the industry is regulated.
“Basically what the banks pay attention to is hygiene and infectious diseases. You screen your donor samples for HIV or Hepatitis. You try to look a little bit at the handling of reproductive materials to make sure that everything is done in a clean environment but that’s it. There isn’t much else,” Caplan, a Bioethicist from NYU said. “Even when you take the history you’re relying on the person telling the truth, which if they’re getting paid to be a sperm donor – maybe they will, maybe they won’t.”
No genetic testing is required by law and no requirement to verify a donor’s background. The only tests are for infectious diseases. Some people ask about medical history, but Caplan said that information isn’t reliable.
Hersh hoped the string of lawsuits will push potential customers to ask more questions.
The weak oversight makes it a buyer-beware industry, but for some, sperm banks are the only option available for starting families. The message from experts seems to be, do your research.