The Sperm Donor Was Carefully Chosen. Decades Later, a Shock

'NYT' looks at cases in which women learned they got the wrong sperm
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 5, 2019 6:45 PM CDT
Updated Jun 9, 2019 3:05 PM CDT
The Sperm Donor Was Carefully Chosen. Decades Later, a Shock
   (Getty Images)

There are no firm numbers on how often this is happening, just anecdotes—and they're "piling up," writes Jacqueline Mroz for the New York Times in a look at what some families are learning about donated sperm in the age of easy access to DNA testing. Namely, that the donor they carefully selected wasn't the one whose sperm ended up being used—and they had no idea. Dov Fox, who heads the Center for Health Law Policy and Bioethics at the University of San Diego, says the minimal regulation of sperm banks is a problem. "These kinds of switches or mix-ups"—which he says are far more common than we realize—"aren't altogether unforeseeable when you learn of the number of sperm banks using outdated methods of labeling specimens, such as pen and paper."

One woman learned the donor she unknowingly used to conceive her two sons had a family history of brain cancer and Alzheimer's. Another mother who received the wrong sperm more than two decades ago says while "it's not the same as rape," she felt "physically violated" upon learning what she put into her body wasn't what she had knowingly chosen. And there's little legal recourse to be had, though Indiana just passed a bill that makes "fertility fraud" a felony. It came in response to the case of Donald Cline, a fertility doctor who was found to have used his own sperm in dozens of pregnancies decades ago. The only charges the state could bring against him were obstruction of justice charges; he had to give up his medical license and received a one-year suspended sentence. Read the full story for Fox's thoughts on what laws the US should institute, as well as more stories of affected families. (More Longform stories.)

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