This page includes information pertaining specifically to the reproductive medicine industry. Learn about all the issues related to donor conception, including what's new in the industry and the related legal implications. See the HFEA (UK) numbers showing that ending donor anonymity has not lowered the number of donors. Read about how the lack of accurate record-keeping has affected families who have used donor conception.
In addition, please browse our News and Video pages (for members only) as there have been numerous news stories over the past decade addressing the many issues within the reproductive medicine industry.
A note regarding the right to test your own or your child's DNA: No sperm bank has ever sued anyone for testing their own or their child's DNA. No sperm bank has ever sued anyone for reaching out to their own or their child's genetic relatives, including formerly "anonymous" donors. Thousands of donor families have connected via DNA websites since 2005 and only one was threatened with a fine, mother Danielle Teuscher. She then sued the sperm bank (CCB/NW Cryo) and ended up settling for $75,000! See the related 2019-2020 Teuscher lawsuit documets below, along with the CBS News story, and the attorney's Q&A/case summary.
What's New in the Donor Conception Industry?
Recent Media Reports
March: The Economist
Besides health concerns, there is another important reason for limiting donor’s fecundity. The children of sperm and egg donors, like those who are adopted, often want to trace their blood relations. But it is difficult to forge strong relationships when vast numbers of children are involved. Wendy Kramer of the Donor Sibling Registry, which helps connect members of donor families, says this is an example of how the contract between clinics and would-be parents has ignored the interests of the children it produces. She established the group in 2000 when her then ten-year-old son, conceived using donor sperm, became curious about his wider family. Last month he learned of the existence of two new half-siblings, bringing the tally to 22. Ms. Kramer had been told her sperm donor would father no more than ten children, a limit she considers sensible.
February: The New York Times
One man, hundreds of children and a burning question: Why?
December: The Sydney Morning Herald
More than 100 women and men have begun a class action lawsuit against Monash IVF following claims the national fertility specialist may have inadvertently destroyed healthy embryos through a faulty genetic screening test.
Documents were filed in the Supreme Court of Victoria on Wednesday against Monash IVF and the Adelaide Fertility Centre on behalf of patients who attended the clinics between May last year and October this year.
December: The Sun
"Dr. Philip Peven is credited with delivering around 9,000 babies during his 40-year career in Detroit, Michigan. Now a group of siblings who found they were genetically matched after doing an online DNA test have discovered they are related to Dr. Peven, who was their parents' doctor, and believe he is their father."
November: The Daily Beast
"Dr. Quincy Fortier ... over the course of decades impregnated an unknown number of female patients at his Women’s Hospital. [But] Fortier wasn’t simply a cretin who surreptitiously implanted innocents with his own sperm — he was a serial pedophile who preyed upon his own children, including one stepdaughter whom he personally impregnated."
"Traci wanted more medical history information, but quickly learned that in California, donor-conceived children have no rights to sue their biological parent."
NOTE from DSR: It's important for people to know that this phenomenon of doctors inseminating their own patients was a regular and common occurrence from (at least) the 1940s through the 1980s when all sperm was fresh, not frozen. Once cryopreservation and sperm banking came into place, this practice seems to have almost stopped (except for a couple of rogue doctors).
October: Courthouse News Service
"A deceased gynecologist has fathered at least 17 children with women thinking they were receiving sperm from anonymous donors, a Dutch hospital said Tuesday, in the latest IVF scandal to hit the country."
"The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday decided claims that a sperm donor lied about his mental and criminal history led to damages in line with consumer fraud, but that 'life itself can never be an injury.'"
September: 11 Alive
"He fathered at least 36 children, but the parents didn't know he had no education and a history of hereditary mental illness."
September: The Daily Mirror
This story is an example of the UK not enforcing the "10 family limit." [Note: The DSR does NOT support this donor's main reason for suing, which was the fact that the clinic sold his sperm to gay couples and single mothers. We do, however, recognize that the clinic did not limit the number of children created from the donor's sperm.]
September: The New Daily
"A fertility doctor could have fathered hundreds of children, secretly using his own sperm instead of the donor sperm his patients thought they were receiving."
September: NBC 7 San Diego
"A San Diego County woman filed a lawsuit Wednesday, alleging that a local physician she consulted for fertility issues decades ago used his own sperm to artificially inseminate her, only discovering the fact after her adult son took a DNA test."
September: Business Wire
"Multiple families victimized by 'fertility fraud' took action today by filing cases against doctors in California and Virginia/West Virginia. The doctors are alleged to have inserted their own sperm into their patients, contrary to the doctors’ representations and their patients’ wishes."
September: KHQ Seattle
"On Wednesday, September 2, the NW Cyrobank in Spokane, which acquired donor vial inventory and records of Cryo LLC in 2016, sent an email to families and revealed that donor 518 and 901A were the same person. The mother we spoke to told us that the donor is believed to have fathered children across Washington, Idaho, and Montana and that some of the kids have health problems such as autism, ADHD, anxiety, and her son has hemophilia, a rare blood disease that can be passed on by a father."
"With little regulation in the sperm bank industry, stories of mistakes and sloppy record-keeping are growing. It’s blowing up the lives of donor-conceived children."
May: NBC Affiliate 11Alive News
"A Georgia sperm bank claims no accountability for selling sperm of man with a criminal history and a diagnosis of bi-polar with schizo-affective disorder.
In the end, Nahmias summed up the debate asking, 'just to be clear, what you’re asserting, a sperm bank can completely misrepresent everything about the sperm itself and charge whatever amount of money based on those representations and completely lie to every customer it has - and nobody can do a thing about it?'
Xytex response was under the law, yes.
That’s why 38 law professors from across the United States filed their own legal analysis with the court asking justices to allow the Normans’ lawsuit, and others like it, to go to trial.
In the brief, written by Georgia State University College of Law Professor Timothy Lytton, they argue, '“exposing sperm banks to liability will give them a powerful incentive to exercise reasonable care in vetting donors and providing accurate information to their clients.'”
Do you need legal assistance? We have a legal connection (with a large international law firm) who can provide pro bono legal assistance for "individuals and families within the DSR network who reach out ... looking for legal assistance." If anyone needs help, please email Wendy.
December: Class action launched against Monash IVF over embryo testing schemeMonash IVF is being sued over a now-suspended non-invasive embryo testing program, with some patients claiming viable embryos may have been wrongly destroyed.
IVF patients across Australia fearing they've lost their only chance at having biological children are suing a major provider over the destruction of embryos that may have been viable. Monash IVF is at the centre of a lawsuit filed in Victoria's Supreme Court on Wednesday, over a world-first non-invasive genetic testing program that has now been suspended. More than 100 people have already expressed interest in the action but upward of 1000 could be affected, lead lawyer Michel Margalit told AAP.
October: Bryce Branzell v. California Cryobank (update of December 2019 case)
From Molly McCafferty, lawyer and DSR Board member: "The court denied California Cryobank’s motion to dismiss, allowing Branzell to proceed with his case. California Cryobank was trying to get the case dismissed from federal court on a technical basis — arguing that all parties were from the same state and so the federal court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. The court has ruled that the parties can engage in discovery to resolve this issue. After discovery is conducted, California Cryobank could attempt again to dismiss the case on these grounds." January 2021: Bryce Branzell settled with California Cryobank with prejudice, which means Branzell cannot attempt to bring claims against California Cryobank in the future. The settlement amount remains undisclosed for now.
September: Beverly Willhelm v. Phillip M. Milgram, M.D.
"In 1988, Plaintiff and her husband turned to Defendant for fertility treatment. Without Plaintiff’s knowledge or consent, Defendant used his own sperm to impregnate her, rather than, as promised, sperm from an anonymous donor."
September: Katherine Richardson Richards v. Michael S. Kiken, M.D.
"In 1978, Plaintiff and her husband turned to Defendant for fertility treatment. Without Plaintiff’s knowledge or consent, Defendant used his own sperm to impregnate her, rather than, as promised, sperm from an anonymous donor."
February: Wendy Norman et al. v. Xytex Sperm Bank.
Wendy Norman et al. v. Xytex Sperm Bank. Supreme Court of Georgia BRIEF OF AMICI CURIAE LAW PROFESSORS OF TORT LAW, FAMILY LAW, AND HEALTH LAW IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFF-APPELLANTS.
September 2020 Update: Georgia Supreme Court Rules Sperm Donor Case Falls In Line With 'Consumer Fraud'
"The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday decided claims that a sperm donor lied about his mental and criminal history led to damages in line with consumer fraud, but that 'life itself can never be an injury.'"
December: Branzell v. California Cryobank/NW Cryobank
Branzell v. California Cryobank/NW Cryobank. "The acts of NW Cryobank have resulted in one individual who did not want to be a sperm donor having at least one child conceived by artificial insemination. Worse still, NW Cryobank cannot determine how many others were provided sperm from Branzell, or continue to be provided his sperm. Branzell chose not to become a sperm donor because he did not want children he had no relationship with. It has now been confirmed that Branzell is the genetic father of a child he has never met. Branzell is now haunted by what he does not know, specifically how many other mistakes NW Cryobank made, and how many other children were or will be conceived with his sperm." January 2021: Bryce Branzell settled with California Cryobank with prejudice, which means Branzell cannot attempt to bring claims against California Cryobank in the future. The settlement amount remains undisclosed for now.
June (through 2020): Teuscher v. CCB-NWB
Teuscher v. CCB-NWB: Lawsuit against California Cryobank/NW Cryobank. "NW Cryo has engaged in a series of deceptive business practices...." Amended Complaint, filed August 12, 2019. Exhibit A; Exhibit B; Exhibit C. Second Amended Complaint, filed November 12, 2019. October 2019 Above the Law article: Beware Of The Home DNA Test! Mom Strikes Back Against Sperm Bank. December 2019: Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss: NW Cryo has brought a second motion to dismiss some claims in the lawsuit: the consumer protection claim, deceptive and unfair practices including confiscating Danielle Teuscher's gametes — the gametes that would help to make a genetic sibling for her daughter, re-classifying donor from Open ID to anonymous, taking down the sibling registry it maintains, and withholding access to medical information of donor, the declaratory judgment claim (contracting with customers against the public policy of the state of Washington) and Ms. Teuscher's intentional emotional distress claim for NW Cryo's retaliatory and intentional actions of sending a Cease and Desist letter and threatening to file a lawsuit against her and illegally taking away her gametes. Ms. Teuscher and her daughter's team of lawyers, led by Law Offices of Jill H. Teitel, PLLC are working to fight the baseless motion. February 2020 Above the Law article: Sperm Bank Case Has Serious Implications For Information and Property Rights. November 2020 Update: This lawsuit was settled out of court for $75,000.December 2020: read the case summary with Q & As by Jill H. Teitel, Esq. attorney for Danielle Teuscher and Z.F.
October: OSHU Lawsuit: Dr. B.C. aka Dr. John Doe v. Oregon Health & Science University.
OSHU Lawsuit: Dr. B.C. aka Dr. John Doe v. Oregon Health & Science University. An Oregon doctor who says he discovered that his donated sperm was used to father at least 17 children in violation of an agreement that allowed for the creation of no more than five children filed a $5.25 million lawsuit against Oregon Health & Science University. Oregon doctor says his donated sperm was used to father at least 17 children, sues OHSU for $5.25 million
September: Vidiksis v. California Cryobank
Vidiksis v. California Cryobank: Class Action Complaint filed against California Cryobank for conversion of and tortious interference with donor sperm from Manhattan Cryobank. From the attorney: "Hi Wendy. I hope you are doing well. Would you mind letting your followers know about the new class action we filed last Friday against California Cryobank? Basically, California Cryobank purchased some assets of Manhattan Cryobank, including all donor sperm. Many people have purchased donor sperm from MCB and were storing it with MCB in hopes of conceiving a second child with the same donor sperm. Now, CCB will not give them access to the donor sperm, claiming that the FDA will not let them release it for some unknown reason."
May: Frankiewicz and Perez v. Manhattan Cryobank/California Cryobank
Frankiewicz and Perez v. Manhattan Cryobank: Lawsuit against Manhattan Cryobank/California Cryobank. From the attorney: "For years, Defendant MCB sold sperm to the public which it knew could contain genetic diseases. Worse, MCB’s own chairman of the board recognized the inadequacies of MCB’s genetic testing regimen and touted the benefits of a more robust screening technology. Nonetheless, MCB, despite having access to such technology, chose not to use it on sperm donated prior to November 1, 2014, despite agreeing and warranting to its customers that it performed a 'complete and thorough screening' for genetic diseases. Read the NY Post article: Manhattan sperm bank didn’t properly screen for genetic diseases: suit
March: Jane Doe 1 and 2 v. Xytex
Jane Doe 1 and 2 v. Xytex: Wrongful birth lawsuit against Xytex. Xytex sperm donor #9623 was a mentally ill schizophrenic felon. In April 2016, other parents who had used Xytex donor #9623 filed a complaint in San Francisco County Superior Court, alleging "intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, strict products liability, products liability based on negligence, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, battery, negligence, false advertising, wrongful birth, specific performance, punitive damages, and violations of the California Unfair Competition law."
September: Jacoba Ballard and Deborah Pierce v. Anonymous Health Care Provider d/b/a Anonymous and John Doe, M.D.
Jacoba Ballard and Deborah Pierce v. Anonymous Health Care Provider d/b/a Anonymous and John Doe, M.D. Dr Donald Cline of Indianapolis used his own sperm to inseminate patients and father more than 50 children. "Specimens from a single donor were to be used in no more than three successful artificial insemination procedures in a well—defined geographic area. Therefore, specimens from a single donor were not to be used in more than three successful artificial insemination procedures at Anonymous. 34. The policy described in paragraph 33 was important to limit the risk of accidental incest resulting from many closely biologically related individuals living near each other and unaware of their biological relationships. 35. At no time did John Doe, M.D. ever disclose to any patient that he would use his own sperm to inseminate them.
June: Jane Doe v. Idant Laboratories.
Jane Doe v. Idant Laboratories. "The boys are part of an autism cluster involving at least a dozen children scattered across the United States, Canada, and Europe, all conceived with sperm from the same donor. Many of the children have secondary diagnoses of ADHD, dyslexia, mood disorders, epilepsy and other developmental and learning disabilities."
September: Jane Doe v. NECC
Jane Doe v. NECC. "Jane Doe, the plaintiff, brought this equity action against the defendants New England Cryogenic Center, Inc. (NECC), and its director, John Rizza (Rizza), seeking an order requiring them to disclose the name of a sperm donor reflected on NECC's records as donor number D237 and whom we shall call D237. Doe claims that she was artificially inseminated in London, England, with D237's sperm and consequently bore twin daughters."
March: Donna Donovan v. Idant Laboratories
Donna Donovan v. Idant Laboratories. In 1995, Donna Donovan was artificially inseminated with sperm provided by Idant Laboratories. Ms. Donovan signed a consent form in which Idant represented that “(1) semen stored at Idant is exceptionally safe; (2) Idant has a screening program that far exceeds mandated standards and (3) Idant’s donors go through a rigorous screening process to ensure that they have a good genetic background and history.” Donovan gave birth to a daughter, Brittany, in January 1996 using sperm from Idant Donor G738. Brittany was diagnosed with developmental difficulties related to her status as a carrier of the Fragile X gene (FMR1). Testing revealed that Donor G378, not Donna Donovan, carried the Fragile X gene.
August: Johnson v. California Cryobank
Johnson v. California Cryobank: Lawsuit against California Cryobank. "[CCB] failed to disclose that the sperm they sold to the Johnsons came from a donor with a history of kidney disease called Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD). That sperm was used to conceive [their daughter] Brittany who has been diagnosed to have this serious kidney disease."
United States of America v. Cecil B. Jacobson, Jr., M.D.
United States of America v. Cecil B. Jacobson, Jr., M.D., Case No. 92-5406 and Cr. No. 91-00474-A, 785 F. Supp. 563. "Dr. Cecil B. Jacobson was indicted on fifty-three counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, travel fraud and perjury. In the indictment, the Government alleges that Dr. Jacobson defrauded certain women and their husbands by representing that the women would be inseminated with sperm from an anonymous donor participating in a donor insemination program. The Government further alleges that, contrary to these representations, Dr. Jacobson inseminated these women with his own sperm, thereby becoming the biological father of the children born to certain of his patients."
2017 FDA Citizen's Petition
July 2017 FDA Citizen's Petition: "Request that the FDA look into the state of affairs surrounding the sperm donation industry, and then develop the appropriate and much-needed regulation/oversight." Read the 173 associated comments, stories, and powerful testimonials. Here is a PDF of the August 9, 2018, Letter of Denial. (The FDA will only deal with "communicable disease" such as STDs in gamete donation.)
Eligibility Determination for Donors of Human Cells, Tissues, and Cellular and Tissue-Based Products (HCT/Ps)
Wendy received this email from a DSR member, who used The Sperm Bank of California (TSBC): "The sperm that we purchased years ago to continue growing our family has been labeled 'not usable' by the FDA because our donor had had sex with men."
The DSR is aware of plenty of gay donors, so we wondered why TSBC would deem $10,000 worth of sperm unusable when they knew the donor was gay when he donated? This 10/19 "Warning Letter" from the FDA to TSBC gives some insight.
Upon investigation, we found the (2007) FDA's Guidance for Industry: Eligibility Determination for Donors of Human Cells, Tissues, and Cellular and Tissue-Based Products (HCT/Ps), which states: "In accordance with § 1271.75(d), you should determine to be ineligible any potential donor[s] who ... have had sex with another man in the preceding 5 years."
Molly McCafferty, a lawyer and DSR Board member, provided this clarification:
"I am not aware of any laws or binding federal regulations banning gay donors.
In 1983, the FDA issued a ban on sperm donation from men who had had sex with men in the preceding five years. In 2005, the FDA updated its guidance on this issue, which many view as encouraging sperm banks to avoid donations from men who have had sex with men.
Under non-binding recommendations issued by the FDA in 2007, men who have had sex with men in the preceding five years is included in a 'list of conditions and behaviors that increase the donor’s relevant communicable disease risk ... you should determine to be ineligible any potential donor who exhibits one or more' of these 'conditions or behaviors.' (See p. 14.) Again, these are non-binding and are recommendations only.
As you know, under current FDA regulations, all sperm must be tested for HIV (among other communicable disease, both sexually and non-sexually transmitted (e.g., Hepatitis B and C). As you also know, American sperm banks typically freeze donations for a minimum of six months before insemination, during which the semen is tested. Obviously if semen tested HIV+ it would be ineligible whether the donor had had sex with men or not. The FDA seems to have some old 'recommendations' implying that men who have sex with men are at higher risk for transmitting communicable diseases (as with blood donation), which may encourage sperm banks to screen out men who have had sex with men in the preceding five years out of some idea of an abundance of caution before getting to the testing for communicable diseases stage. As all sperm must be tested and quarantined regardless of sexual history, this obviously makes no sense. But of course private sperm banks are unfortunately free to admit and deny anyone they like as sperm or egg donors (e.g., setting age limits, educational criteria, height requirements, etc.).
21 CFR §1271 Subpart C contains Federal Regulations regarding donor eligibility. Federal regulations do carry the same authority as federal law. Per these regulations, a donor is eligible if donor screening done in accordance with FDA regulations indicates that the donor is free from risk factors for, and clinical evidence of, infection due to relevant communicable disease agents and diseases and the results of donor testing for relevant communicable disease agents are negative or nonreactive. As I read these, as long as semen tests negative as to the communicable diseases listed in the FDA guidelines, it is eligible sperm — no matter from whence it came. If the sperm tests positive for communicable diseases listed in the FDA guidelines, it is ineligible sperm — no matter from whence it came. There is a difference between screening potential sperm and testing potential sperm, but [this] case is especially strange as the sperm had already been sold."
NY State Law
NYCRR Title 10 PART 52-8.9 Required records.
(a) Reproductive tissue bank records shall be open to inspection by the department and shall be kept for at least seven years after release of reproductive tissue for artificial inseminations or assisted reproductive procedures not resulting in a live birth, and 25 years for inseminations or assisted reproductive procedures known to have resulted in a live birth. For all donated reproductive tissue, the donor's name, address, and any other information which would directly or indirectly identify the donor shall not be disclosed or released by the reproductive tissue bank to any person or entity, except upon the written informed consent of the donor, or except to authorized employees of the department or as permitted by law. The recipient's name, address, and any other information which would directly or indirectly identify the recipient shall not be disclosed or released by the insemination/implantation site to any person or entity, except upon the written informed consent of the recipient, or except to authorized employees of the department, or as permitted by law.
(b) In addition to the recordkeeping requirements of section 52-2.9(c) of this Part, each reproductive tissue bank shall maintain applicable donor/client-depositor records which include:
(1) for donors, pertinent family history of any genetic disorders;
(2) documentation of donor and client-depositor written informed consent;
(3) for semen donors, outcome of any prior artificial insemination or other assisted reproductive procedures, if known, including number of successful pregnancies, if any, and any reports from insemination/implantation sites which would affect the donor's acceptability; and
(4) documented approval of the reproductive tissue bank director, or his/her designee, of the acceptability of the donor.
(c) In addition to the recordkeeping requirements of section 52-2.9(e) and (f) of this Part, each reproductive tissue bank shall maintain applicable records which include:
(1) donor's identification code or client-depositor's name;
(2) for semen donations, documentation of laboratory cryosensitivity testing, and, if performed, results of viability checks after thawing and during storage, if any;
(3) the name of the insemination/implantation site, the physician or other person authorized by law to perform artificial insemination or assisted reproductive procedures, and/or receive reproductive tissue, and the name of the person communicating the order for distribution of the tissue;
(4) the recipient's name, if the name has been provided to the reproductive tissue bank with her informed consent, or the recipient's identification code, if used;
(5) documentation of training, certification, licensure, if required by law, and continuing education for each staff member; and
(6) any adverse outcomes, including infectious diseases in recipients or their offspring and genetic defects in offspring, which shall be reported to the donors if there is any possibility that the donor's reproductive tissue contributed to the adverse outcome.
(d) The following records shall be kept, separate from the recipient's records, by an insemination/implantation site for each insemination or assisted reproductive procedure performed:
(1) donor's identification code or name, if the reproductive tissue originates from a client-depositor;
(2) evidence that reproductive tissue from donors and/or client-depositors has been obtained from a reproductive tissue bank licensed pursuant to Subpart 52-2 of this Part;
(3) disposition of the reproductive tissue, including, but not limited to, the name or identification code of the recipient, destruction logs, and autoclaving or incineration records;
(4) the name and signature of the ordering physician or other person authorized by law to order issuance of the reproductive tissue;
(5) results of sperm viability checks, if performed; and
(6) signature of the person receiving the sample and condition of the sample upon receipt.
(e) The insemination/implantation site shall document the outcome of the artificial insemination or assisted reproductive procedure, including, but not limited to, any known adverse outcome in the infant or infectious disease in the recipient, as well as any known successful pregnancies. This information shall also be reported to the reproductive tissue bank releasing the tissue, even if the reproductive tissue bank is the same entity as the insemination/implantation site.
November: NBC News
Scott Brown, vice president of communications for California Cryobank, said, “Family is what we are in the business of, not genetic connection.”
October: Podcast with Wendy Kramer
A lawsuit alleges that a Colorado doctor who offered his help to women for years fathered many of the very children he helped those women conceive.
"The error was highlighted as part of an HFEA report which showed that mistakes are rare — affecting less than 1% of fertility treatment cycles — but have risen by 6% in the last year and 18% in three years."
October: Washington Post
See the associated September 2019 Washington Post article: The children of Donor H898. "The boys are part of an autism cluster involving at least a dozen children scattered across the United States, Canada, and Europe, all conceived with sperm from the same donor. Many of the children have secondary diagnoses of ADHD, dyslexia, mood disorders, epilepsy and other developmental and learning disabilities." Read the associated lawsuit. Read the Above the Law article: Sperm Donor Linked To Autism Cluster — Scientifically Fascinating, Legally Complicated. See the CBS Chicago story: Single Sperm Donor Linked To Numerous Children With Autism, Other Disabilities.
September: Fox5 New York
A fertility clinic must hand over its sperm donor list after a white couple gives birth to an Asian baby.
"I think it's a very selfish act to try and locate an unknown donor," said California Cryobank spokesman, Scott Brown.
August: The Monthly
"Dwindling stocks of Australian sperm have fertility clinics looking overseas and couples looking online."
July: Ottawa Citizen
June: NY Times
April: Prospect Magazine
The donor detective: how one woman made it her mission to help donor-conceived children find their biological fathers. "Thousands of children conceived by anonymous sperm donation still have no right at all to know their biological fathers. But they are turning to DNA sites to track them down — and Wendy Kramer has made it her very personal mission to help. Every morning at 5am, Wendy Kramer fires up her laptop in the tiny mountain town of Nederland, Colorado, to read and swiftly respond to requests for help from around the world. 'I'm 15 years old, and last summer I found out (by accident) that I was conceived with a sperm donor,' reads one. Another says: 'Don't know much except the hospital in which I was born (and most likely received my donor sperm from the same hospital). I found out by accident and my mother refuses to tell me much.'"
March: The Atlantic
The Fertility Doctor's Secret. "Decades ago, without ever telling his patients, Cline had used his own sperm to impregnate women who came to him for artificial insemination."
February: NY Times
February: Chicago Tribune
January: CBS This Morning
November: France 24
Home DNA tests doom anonymity for sperm, egg donors. "All Ryan Kramer had to do was to swab his cheek and embark on nine days of genealogical research to identify his biological father, a man who thought he would remain anonymous when he donated his sperm and never took a DNA test himself. The year was 2005, when consumer DNA tests were in their infancy. Kramer was 15. Thirteen years later, the explosion of individual DNA test kits has opened the floodgates for people who were born from sperm or egg donations. Increasing numbers of people are using the technology to uncover the identities of their donors."
November: Washington Post
The False Hope of Open Donors. "'Open-identity,' 'non-anonymous,' 'ID release,' 'willing-to-be-known.' The names vary, but the idea is much the same: when a child conceived through sperm or egg donation reaches a certain age, they get to find out about the donor and maybe make contact. Or do they?"
August: The Spokesman-Review
Lawsuit alleging doctor’s sperm donation heads to court. Yet another woman accuses a fertility doctor of fraudulently using his own sperm to artificially inseminate her mother.
April: The Lawyer's Daily
April: Ottawa Citizen
April: Courthouse News Service
Lawsuit Claims Fertility Doctor Used His Own Sperm to Impregnate Patient. Another doctor gets caught using his own sperm to impregnate his patients.
February: Atlanta Magazine
"Wendy Kramer became a vocal advocate for donor children’s rights in 2000 after her own toddler, born of donor sperm from California Cryobank, asked if his father had died. When she tried to learn more about the man, she was stymied by his anonymous status. So, she created the Donor Sibling Registry, a more than 56,000-member database designed to facilitate 'mutually desired contact' between donors, families, and siblings.
In January 2017, she filed a letter with the FDA, asking the agency to 'look into the state of affairs surrounding the sperm donation industry and then develop the appropriate and much-needed regulation/oversight.' It was acknowledged but not addressed. Almeling, the Sex Cells author, said she was told by the FDA that it would 'take an act of Congress' to expand the agency’s powers over sperm banks. 'The FDA routinely evaluates its regulations and guidance documents, and updates them as necessary,' FDA press officer Andrea Fischer told me in an email.
Some activists believe that many of the industry’s problems would be avoided if all donors were identified. The prevalence of at-home DNA kits has made it easier for donor offspring to collect and share information that might lead them to a donor’s identity, Kramer said. But other experts say such a policy would narrow the field too much, deterring good donors and leading to a scarcity of sperm. And they say it’s a slippery slope when you invite the government to be more deeply involved in reproduction, worrying this could lead to state-led genetic engineering and artificial selection.
Sperm-banking rules in other countries vary widely. In New Zealand, some hopeful parents must wait two years for sperm because it can be donated only voluntarily, which has created a shortage. Paid sperm donation is also prohibited in Canada, so customers there must buy sperm from the United States. Austria and Italy forbid any egg and sperm donations. Germany and Norway allow sperm donation but not the donation of eggs.
In the United Kingdom, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority issues regulations on artificial reproduction. And France is able to keep close tabs on its donors and donor families because the country has a national, state-run sperm banking program. But that country also doesn’t allow single women and lesbian couples to buy sperm.
All of the sperm banks in the United States insist they do the most, the best, and the deepest due diligence on their donors. But ultimately, the companies are permitted to do business largely as they see fit, which leaves the industry vulnerable to deceptive donors."
December: Ottawa Citizen
Decades of patients sought for possible lawsuit against Ottawa fertility doctor accused of using own sperm. An Ottawa fertility doctor is accused of using his own sperm.
December: WRTV Indianapolis
October: 11 Alive
Sperm bank settles negligence lawsuits. Xytex will never have to answer questions in court regarding its decision to sell the sperm of a donor the company would later learn had a criminal record and severe mental health problems. One of the parents explains the lawsuit.
August: Irish Journal of Legal Studies
From the author of this article on donor-conceived people: "Please find attached a recently published article dealing with the perspectives of donor-conceived individuals on the importance of access to identifying donor information prior to the legal age of maturity in Ireland. It has been published in the Irish Journal of Legal Studies, an Irish peer-reviewed law journal ... I would like to thank you sincerely yet again for all of your assistance during the research process."
August: Boston Herald
August: Boston Herald
June: NY Post
February: 9 News Colorado
Mother worries about sperm donor's medical history. Child from California Cryobank sperm donor is diagnosed with cancer.
February: 11 Alive
Sperm for sale: Fighting for change. Prolific Xytex sperm donor has a criminal record and a history of mental illness.
One deputy dead after incident at Xytex. Unethical practice by Xytex leads to disaster.
November: Verdict / Justia
Friends with Benefits: Texas Man Who Donated Sperm to a Friend Has Parental Rights. 2016 Analysis of sperm donation laws.
November: Canadian Medical Association Journal
Switched before birth. "Why is it wrong when it happens in a hospital by accident, but okay when doctors are paid to do it? That is the question on the minds of so-called 'donor offspring' — people created through the eggs or sperm of individuals they will never know."
October: CBS This Morning
September: CBC News
September: International Business Times
Who Is Donald Cline? Fertility Doctor Secretly Fathered Dozens Of Children With Former Patients In Indiana, Affidavit Says. "Although Cline’s personal donations may be considered unethical by many, it’s a practice that wasn’t all that uncommon for fertility clinics before the 1990s. Director and co-founder of Colorado-based Donor Sibling Registry, Wendy Kramer, told the Indy Star she always advises people conceived through the help of a sperm bank before 1990 to check their mother’s fertility doctor first when searching for their biological father. The website helps connects parents, donors and offspring, and according to Kramer, checking a mother's fertility doctor is a crucial first step in determining the biological father for most children born before 1990."
September: Indy Star
Indianapolis fertility doctor accused of using own sperm. Another doctor caught using his own sperm more than 50 times.
July: NY Times
December: EC Gynaecology
December: TVM (Television Malta)
May: International Children's Rights Institute
April: Toronto Star
April: Toronto Star
April: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Couple sues Georgia sperm bank, claims donor wasn’t as advertised. A Canadian couple is suing a Georgia sperm bank, saying that the donor the company provided for them turned out to be a schizophrenic who has a criminal record and whose photo was doctored to make him look more attractive.
March: London Times
October: Washington Post
October: The Today Show
September: Chicago Tribune
Suit: Black donor's sperm sent to white woman. Midwest Sperm Bank mix-up.
July: Gay Star News
Finding your perfect sperm donor match has never been so simple. "Recent reports that sperm donation in Britain is still in a critical state have been much exaggerated. Donors and sperm samples are in good supply, reports the London Sperm Bank."
April: Salt Lake Tribune
April: Fox News
January: Fox News
January: Lost Daughters blog site
January: CBS This Morning
Family discovers fertility fraud 20 years later: "It almost seems surreal." A Texas family discovers that they were the victims of a sample switch at a Utah fertility clinic.
August: The Age, Victoria, Australia
August: CBC News
Ottawa doctor loses Order of Canada after sperm mix-ups. "In an agreed statement of facts, five women were involved in four artificial inseminations provided by Barwin between 1986 and 2007 and in all four cases DNA tests confirmed the women received the wrong sperm."
*September: BBC News
*September: Daily Mail
*Note: The BBC News and Daily Mail articles above are referencing an earlier story, originally reported by DSR members (see the June 2011 Copenhagen Post article on our Medical Issues page). The interesting thing about this story is that this donor is also a California Cryobank donor. We regularly hear stories about sperm donors passing along medical and genetic issues to children here in the US, but no regulation is ever initiated.
March: Sydney Morning Herald
October: NBC Dallas
October: Colorado Public Radio
'Donor Unknown': One Girl's Quest to Find Her Father. Audio interview with Wendy Kramer.
October: NY Times
August: USC Reporting on Health
April: Infertility & Reproductive News
March: The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity
Regulation (or Lack Thereof) of Assisted Reproductive Technologies in the U.S. and Abroad. "Among developed nations, the U.S. assisted reproduction or fertility industry is one of the least regulated. This has led to a reproductive free-for-all. Any technological means, regardless of the medical and ethical consequences, can be utilized in the pursuit of parenthood if the price is right."
October: The Guardian
The Columbia Science and Technology Law Review
April: International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family
Fall: Human Life Review
March: DePaul University College of Law, Chicago: Symposium: Tracking Change
Donor Sibling Registry: Educating, Connecting and Supporting Donor Families. From Wendy Kramer's speech: "I believe that it is of paramount importance that this industry examine and address the issues of educating, connecting, and supporting donor families as well as the necessity of more accurate record-keeping and accountability."
August: Princeton University
Artificial Insemination: Practice in the United States: Summary of a 1987 Survey. As of 2013, this was still the only survey on US sperm banks. It erroneously stated that there were 30,000 donor-offspring born each year in the US. The same number was still used in 2013, 25 years later.
Huffington Post Articles
Other Relevant Articles
Here are some other articles on the law, the ethics, the comparisons to adoption, the need for regulation, and the nuts and bolts of donor conception. Issues we should all ponder!
March: International Journal of Law, Policy and The Family
September: The Globe and Mail
Medicine and Law
December: Genomics Law Report
June: National Review
February: Adoption Institute
January: ASRM Ethics Committee
December: The Wall Street Journal
June: Medical News Today
November: Center for Genetics and Society
Thomas K. Sylvester, Yale Law School
Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology
March: Manchester Evening News
April: American Fertility Association Newsletter
The Sperm Bank of California's Research page
Sperm Bank Policies: What are they thinking?
How much do sperm banks make? Here's an interesting 2017 article from a marketing company that ran a marketing program for a New York sperm bank. "The cryobank gathered an additional 1,000 local leads during their seven-month trial. This resulted in an average lead growth of 166 percent month-over-month. After accounting for the number of leads that passed the sperm bank’s genetic testing, the resulting conversion rate was about 3 percent. In total, we earned the client an estimated $3,000,000 in additional revenue." They spent $21,000 on the ad campaign. So that means each approved donor will earn the sperm bank almost $100,000.
2017 book about the sperm banking industry: Scattered Seeds: In Search of Family and Identity in the Sperm Donor Generation. Journalist and writer Jacqueline Mroz looks at the growth of sperm donation and assisted reproduction and how it affects the children who are born, the women who buy and use the sperm to have kids, and the sperm donors who donate their genetic material to help others procreate. "This is the dawn of a challenging moment in time for assisted reproduction,” Mroz concludes. “With technology evolving rapidly, it’s time for legislators and policymakers to start acknowledging these changes and examine the consequences of an unregulated industry."
2017 quote from a donor-conceived person: "I don't think donor anonymity is an issue that is front of mind for the general public. It's individual fertility specialists and clinics seeking to retain control and living out their antediluvian paternalistic attitudes in practice that are the reasons behind the persistence of donor anonymity. They don't trust the lived experience of donors, donor-conceived people, or the parents of donor-conceived people and believe that in all cases "doctor knows best." When you have a combination of capitalism and patriarchy you're going to have problems with getting progressive values into place."
2016 interview with medical ethicist Art Caplan, Professor of Bioethics at NYU, Langone Medical Center: "Sperm Banks Are Run Like Grocery Stores From The 19th Century," Says Art Caplan
Cryogenic Laboratories Inc. implies that donor anonymity is required by law. A former sperm donor shared this photo of his CLI agreement. We call B.S. on CLI's terminology. There are no "legal statutes and standards" pertaining to donor anonymity. Also notice the typo ("statues") — who writes these illiterate, dishonest, misleading, and unenforceable sperm bank agreements?
Fairfax Cryobank refers to sperm purchase as "adoption." A Fairfax customer shared this email. Why do they call their sperm purchase agreement an "Adoption Letter" in an email to a customer? No one "adopts" sperm!
ALL donors in the US and Denmark are still sold as "anonymous" (be it for 18 years or forever), despite the fact that all donors can be found at any time via DNA testing and/or an Internet/social media/public records search.
The myth of donor anonymity is perpetuated by researchers. An article in the December 2016 issue of the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Sperm donor anonymity and compensation: an experiment with American sperm donors, illustrates the fact that the US sperm banking industry is still not properly educating prospective donors and parents about the myth of anonymity. With DNA testing, Google, and social media, anonymity is a thing of the past. Sperm banks (and egg clinics) need to stop the fallacy of selling "anonymous" donors, and the "experts" need to stop perpetuating this idea. Donor-conceived people have been locating their donors via DNA testing since 2005 (see November 2005 New Scientist Magazine) — so this is not new. This published "study" was conducted in partnership with a sperm bank that profits more from offering anonymous donors. Communication with their donors about anonymity had already taken place. How was this major conflict of interest acceptable to the Journal of Law and Biosciences? In response to the article, Harvard Law published Wendy's blog contribution, DNA: Donors Not Anonymous, and the link to her HuffPo response blog, Sperm And Egg Donation: 10 Things Your Doctor, Clinic Or Sperm Bank Won’t Tell You.
The myth of donor anonymity is also perpetuated by infertility organizations, sperm banks, egg clinics, government organizations, etc. Why don't organizations where people go for support and guidance in the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, Europe, and other countries (e.g., the ASRM, HFEA, Path2Parenthood, Fertility Network, Donor Conception Network, BFS, etc.), along with all sperm banks and egg clinics, clearly educate on their websites about the fact that anonymity can no longer be guaranteed/enforced, not even if only for 18 years. They've all had since 2005 to disseminate this information, so it isn't something that they're just hearing about.
A letter from the Editor-in-Chief of Human Reproduction: "Due to genetic testing donor anonymity does no longer exist. Many thousands of people worldwide have been conceived with donor gametes but not all parents tell their children of their origin. Genetic testing will make this impossible. Over three million people have already used direct-to-consumer genetic testing. The rapidly increasing availability of cheaper and more detailed tests poses numerous challenges to the current practice of sperm and egg donation: 1. Whether they are donating in a country that practices anonymous donation or not, donors should be informed that their anonymity is no longer guaranteed, as they may be traced if their DNA, or that of a relative, is added to a database. 2. Donor-conceived adults who have not been informed of their status may find out that they are donor-conceived. 3. Parents using donor conception need to be fully informed that their children’s DNA will identify that they are not the biological parents and they should be encouraged to disclose the use of donor gametes to their children. All parties concerned must be aware that, in 2016, donor anonymity has ceased to exist." —JLH (Hans) Evers, Editor-in-Chief, Human Reproduction
Where around the world is donor anonymity banned? Austria, Finland, Germany, The Netherlands, New South Wales, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, and Australia. However, much of the sperm in these countries is imported from the US, which is still sold as "anonymous."
September: UK Government Department of Health & Social Care
Quality and safety of organs, tissues and cells if there’s no Brexit deal. "The UK imports donated sperm, primarily from commercial sperm banks in the USA and Denmark. Approximately 4,000 samples were imported from the USA and 3,000 samples from Denmark in 2017, as well as a small number from other EU countries." According to the UK's Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA), "Every year around 2,700 children are conceived with the help of a donor."
November: ABC South Australia
SA sperm donors' identities could be revealed whether they like it or not. "Donor-conceived people should be able to access identifying information about their donors, without their donor's consent, to ensure those people have the same right to information about their genetic parentage as those who are conceived naturally."
German Parliament passes the Sperm Donor Registry Act. The Sperm Donor Registry Act will allow children born from 2018 onward to access their donors' information.
Report on the Review of the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 1988 (SA). A report on the review of South Australian legislation that was tabled in Parliament. If this legislation passes, South Australia will become the second place in the world to grant retrospective access to identifying information via legislation.
October: The Local (German news)
"A Hanover court ... ruled that a child's right to know about their lineage was more important than a sperm donor’s right to privacy, reaffirming a high court ruling from [the previous] year."
May: NSW, Australia, Herald Sun
Sperm donors step up after law change. The media and other industry "experts" frequently report that ending donor "anonymity" will automatically result in a drop in donor numbers. Quite to the contrary, there has been a 10-fold increase in the number of sperm donors AFTER only forcing 18 years of "anonymity" in the state of NSW, Australia.
Journal of Law and Medicine
Does the removal of anonymity reduce the number of sperm donors in Australia? This paper examined the effect of removing donor "anonymity" on sperm donor numbers in Australia. From one of the authors: "Now that we have data that the UK and Australia were not adversely affected by removing anonymity, hopefully, the USA will follow suit. Especially seeing as though DNA makes any guarantee of anonymity null and void, it is unethical that clinics still offer it."
Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA)
Egg and sperm donation in the UK: 2012–2013. The UK's HFEA only has egg and sperm donation numbers through 2013. (Are they still keeping track?) We can see that the numbers of UK donors has gone UP since forcing/promising (only) 18 years of "anonymity" in 2005. The HFEA notes the reason for the 2013 decrease in local sperm donors: "The number of imports has steadily increased year on year and now forms almost a third of new registrations. Most imported sperm comes from the USA, followed by Denmark. It is important to note that this does not necessarily reflect 'popularity' of donors, but perhaps more their availability. Some clinics reported that they import donor sperm because the cost, time and resources required to recruit donors themselves is too high when there are specialist sperm banks who can carry out an efficient and reliable service."