The Fraudulent Sperm Donor

Sperm Bank

The British cartoon above give me the willies the first time I saw years ago it, and it does still. I tracked it down after reading legal commentary on a nightmarish incident in Canada.

Canadian couple Angela Collins and Elizabeth Hanson chose a sperm donor for their planned child who claimed a 160 IQ, a neuroscience PhD, and a perfect medical history.  After their child was born, they learned the surrogate father’s name though an error by the sperm bank, and discovered that Dad had lied: he never graduated from college, was a convicted felon, and had a history of schizophrenia. His sperm bank profile picture was also a fake; I’m guessing he really looked like the guy in the cartoon.

Other than that, he was fine.

There is a lawsuit against the sperm bank, naturally, and attorney Ellen Trachman performs an excellent analysis of the legal and policy implications here. She concentrates on the ethical duties and policy balancing applying to the sperm bank, in this case a company called Xytex Corp. Among her observations:

  • Xytex probably  followed the industry standard. Sperm, egg, and embryo donation banks and agencies are remarkably unregulated area, and, incredibly, not required by statutes to confirm the information provided by their donors.

Obviously they should be required to tell their sperm’s purchasers that, and knowing this, any couple that accepts sperm without confirming what they are getting is irresponsible. Buy the Mystery Surprise Box, and you can’t complain about what’s inside.

  • Implementing regulations that require sperm banks to be held to a certain standard of care when screening their donor applicants would help, but also vastly increase the cost of the process. “With every additional layer of scrutiny, the cost of the process rises, the lawyer writes. “For adoption, these measures have caused costs to skyrocket.”
  • The problem can be addressed with the use of so-called “known donors,” that is, known to the recipients, so they can do their own checking.

“Known donors means” known recipients too, though, and such donors may try to assert parental rights to the child, or fear that they will be be forced to pay child support.

  • She writes,  “Maybe cases like Xytex’s will convince quality banks to emerge that tout their strict background checks and confirmation of their donor profiles. We can always hope the industry will improve on its own. On the other hand, the stakes may be too high to rely on it.”

Very interesting. I, however, would like to know what should be done to the fraudulent cur who engages in such a horrible act of betrayal.

This revolting conduct approaches the magnitude of rape: it is falsely inducing consent to an intimate bodily invasion with a child resulting. “Yes,” in such a case, would be “Hell, NO” without the misinformation. One solution would be to have every sperm donor sign a document making his anonymity contingent upon his representations about his personal characteristics, history and health being accurate. If they are ever shown to be false in any material way, the donor should be prosecuted for fraud, and if a couple is induced by his lies to create a child, this should be a crime all by itself, a felony, and one with prison time and financial obligations attached.

Any couple entrusting the genetic make-up of a child they well be responsible for loving and caring for to the DNA of someone they have never met is engaging in reckless and irresponsible behavior; the cartoon shows why. Since the system is guaranteed to attract unethical donors, however, ethics can’t be relied upon to protect the desperate, naive and gullible. “When ethics fails, the law must step in,” and this is an a example where strict laws are desperately needed.


Graphic: Photobucket

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts, and seek written permission when appropriate. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work or property was used in any way without proper attribution, credit or permission, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at


10 thoughts on “The Fraudulent Sperm Donor

  1. “Any couple entrusting the genetic make-up of a child they well be responsible for loving and caring for to the DNA of someone they have never met is engaging in reckless and irresponsible behavior….”


    Or just be a loving aunt or uncle to your nieces or nephews or volunteer at a Boys and Girls Club or tutor kids. All kinds of kids need all kinds of attention.

  2. We could wind up with a whole bunch of “Rhondas” the character played by Patty McCormick in “The Bad Seed” or little “Damiens” racing around in their tricycles. Seriously, the sperm banks should be held liable for not creating more strict screening background checks to vet out these creeps and make sure they are prosecuted for fraud.

  3. This whole area of medicine just smacks of ethical problems, most of which can’t be resolved and so many competing interests simply make it impossible to cut through the haze. I think you may have called it a “pre-ethics trainwreck”. I simply need another beer – my head hurts.


    • I think “buyer beware” is the dominant ethical concept here. Which tells you all you need to know about the terribly transactional nature or what’s involved here. Of course, every human interaction can be viewed as a transaction. Many marriages are as random, ill-conceived and as much a crap shoot as acquiring sperm at a retail outlet. “‘C’est la vie,’ say the old folks, ‘It goes to show you never can tell.'”

  4. If we’re going after fraud regarding paternity, we should start with women who’ve tricked a man into raising a child that isn’t his.

  5. Isn’t the term “Sperm BANK” dispositive of the issue? It’s one of those terms that probably began as a bad joke and then, bizarrely, became acceptable. Maybe something about deposits and withdrawals and interest?

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