They Turned to Sperm Donor 1558. Was It a Mistake?

Their resulting child suffered from mental illness they suspect was hereditary
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2022 2:14 PM CST
They Turned to Sperm Donor 1558. Was It a Mistake?
A stock image related to IVF.   (Getty Images)

"You can know everything about somebody and that doesn’t tell you what their children are going to be like," the chief advocacy and policy officer for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine tells the Wall Street Journal. Laura and David Gunner still wish they had known closer to "everything" about the sperm donor they used decades ago. Writing for the Journal, Amy Dockser Marcus explains the Gunners turned to Donor 1558 at Fairfax Cryobank in Fairfax, Va.—a "handsome, athletic, musical student" as Marcus puts it. The resulting child was a son named Steven, who died of a drug overdose in 2020 at the age of 27 following more than a decade of mental illness.

After his death, the Gunners joined the Donor Sibling Registry looking for other parents who had used Donor 1558. What they discovered shocked them. The registry led them to 18 half-siblings as well as Donor 1558's mother. They learned the donor had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had himself fatally OD'd in 2018 at age 46. Further, he was once hospitalized for behavioral issues, though he didn't share that detail on the sperm bank's donor questionnaire. Marcus digs into the murkiness of how schizophrenia is transmitted and the theories about genetic and environmental risk factors. The Gunners have their own theory: That "Steven inherited a susceptibility to schizophrenia from his biological father." The Gunners have since worked to get legislation enacted would see more donor health info disclosed, and Marcus points out the contradiction: "Laws that—had they been in force when they were trying to start a family—would have meant the son they adored would never have been born." (Read the full story.)

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