Infertility is a multi-billion dollar industry – but it is still loosely regulated. Case in point:
FDA regulations only require sperm banks to screen for communicable/infectious diseases (and while most say they test for genetic disorders like Tay-Sachs or Sickle Cell, even extended genetic testing doesn’t typically over things like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia)
While donors fill out health questionnaires, sperm banks don’t always verify donors’ information
Because donors receive compensation, some do not disclose information that would make them an unsuitable donor
Donors are asked to alert sperm banks to medical problems that arise after donation – but often fail to do so
And while most people who use sperm donations have happy, healthy children … there are some (heartbreaking) cases where things went wrong. For example:
In 1995, a couple picked a donor from a sperm bank. Donor 1558 was described as a healthy, guitar- and hockey-playing college student with light hair and brown eyes. The couple’s son struggled with serious mental health issues (including schizophrenia) and ultimately died of an opioid overdose. After his death, they learned that his biological father, the sperm donor, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and also died of an opioid overdose. None of these conditions were disclosed on his profile. In some cases, sperm banks weren't even bothering to verify donor-provided information.
Reading about this got us thinking …
? Many men who make sperm donations do it because they need the money – which means they are motivated to present their “best” selves (lest they are screened out). Is there a way to fairly compensate donors while also ensuring their honesty?
? If you were running a sperm bank, which factors (medical history, criminal history, addiction, etc.) would you use to screen donors out?
? Should all sperm donors have to complete a battery of physical and psychological tests to ensure they are truly healthy?
? What’s an “acceptable” error rate for a sperm bank? (e.g., What percentage of the time is it ok for them to have mis-screened a donor?)
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