Sperm Donor’s Profile Hid Mental Illness and Crime, Lawsuits Say
When Angela Collins and her partner wanted to have a child, they reached out to a sperm bank in Georgia to look for potential donors. They thought they had found the perfect match in Donor 9623, described as a man with an I.Q. of 160 who was healthy and working toward his Ph.D.But in 2014, about seven years after Ms. Collins gave birth to their son, she and her partner, Elizabeth Hanson, made an upsetting discovery after learning the man’s identity through a donor sibling group. The donor had a history of mental illness and a criminal record, and had exaggerated his educational accomplishments, they say.
“It was like a lead ball went to the bottom of our stomach for both my partner and I,” Ms. Collins said in a radio interview last week with “As It Happens” on the Canadian network CBC.
She added, “We know nobody is perfect, but we didn’t sign up to choose knowingly that our donor had schizophrenia.”
Ms. Collins and Ms. Hanson, who live in Port Hope, Ontario, about 70 miles east of Toronto, were among three families who filed lawsuits in Ontario Superior Court this month accusing the sperm bank, Xytex Corp., in Augusta, Ga., of misleading them about the donor. The suit says the company failed to describe him accurately or disclose that he had a mental illness and a criminal record.
The three lawsuits are the first in an expanding group of cases that go to the heart of privacy and health issues as more would-be parents — many of them single or in same-sex partnerships — seek donors to help them conceive, said Nancy Hersh, a lawyer in San Francisco who is representing Ms. Collins and the other families.
“This is a huge problem,” Ms. Hersh said in a telephone interview. “Lots of people will avail themselves of sperm banks, and it is important that the public will be educated about the risks. It is a public health issue.”
Ms. Hersh said at least a dozen other American, Canadian and British families were planning lawsuits related to Donor 9623. The 15 families she represents have conceived 23 children using the donor’s sperm, all with “a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia, which nobody knew at the time they purchased his sperm.”
The three lawsuits are each seeking more than 4 million Canadian dollars (about $3 million in United States currency) in damages, partly to provide support and pre-emptive care for children the families fear will be affected by mental illness.
A lawyer for Xytex, Ted Lavender, said he would not comment on the case. But he noted that in October, a county judge in Georgia tossed out a similar claim by Ms. Collins and her partner.
This reminds me of the science fiction writer author Larry Niven’s future author’s future history series. People are only allowed to reproduce by IVF and no one can reproduce who has any kind of mental or medical condition, even those that can be easily treated.
I’m sure these lawsuits will become more common. When reproduction becomes a commercial transaction one will naturally seek the highest quality so we’ll see more suits from disappointed customers. I pity the poor kids whose parents consider them substandard merchandise.