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.
Continue reading

Pre-Unethical Conditions: Surrogate Mother Contracts And Making Babies With Jerks

womb-for-rent2Most surrogate mother arrangements work out exactly as intended by the participants. A couple or a single parent gets the biologically linked baby they bargained for, and the mother gets what she wanted, cash. To many the contracts seem unethical because the idea, only recently beyond the realm of science fiction, of a woman bearing another couple’s child, or allowing a stranger’s seed to impregnate her,  appears strange, unnatural and  icky, which it is. No, it is not unethical, but it is what we call a pre-unethical condition, a situation that lays a foundation for unethical conduct and results if care isn’t taken and one or more participants lack functioning ethics alarms. Three recent episodes demonstrate how icky can turn to unethical, especially when the wrong kind of people are involved.

I. The Unwanted Triplet, continued.

Earlier this year, Ethics Alarms hosted a spirited debate regarding Melissa Cook, a surrogate who fought against the man who owned her three unborn triplets, having rented out her womb to gestate them. He wanted to have one of them aborted, because two babies were all he felt he could support. She refused, and challenged the surrogacy contract in court. I asked… Continue reading

Tales From The “Ick!” Files: If Luke Married Leia…

Luke and Leia

Emily Yoffe, who is not Ethics Alarms’ favorite advice columnist, gets one right at Slate—a weird one, but then, that’s the only kind of question she usually chooses to answer. If I had to bet, I’d place my money on this question being a fake. Emily acknowledges that possibility, but couldn’t pass this one up, and neither can I.

A loving husband who already knew that both he and his wife (it was virtually love at first sight when they met in college) were raised by lesbian parent couples who conceived via sperm donors found out that they both have the same donor to thank for their conception. Now he thinks “sister” every time he sees his spouse, and ask 1) what should he do? and 2) should he tell his wife that he has learned that they are half-siblings? Yoffe tells this poor guy to stop feeling guilty, and that he hasn’t done anything wrong. She also advises him to get some counseling, and to suck it up and tell sis about their dilemma….but not to reveal the secret to their kids, Anteater Boy and Tilly the Boneless. Continue reading

Ethics Mess In Kansas: The Lesbians and the Sperm Donor

The parents in happier days

The parents in happier days

Auto mechanic William Marotta must rue the day he responded to a Craigslist ad placed by Angela Bauer and her life partner Jennifer Schreiner. They were seeking a sperm donor, for the obvious reasons, and he had sperm to donate. The trio then signed a contract in which all agreed that Marotta would have no rights to any child his sperm spawned, nor future responsibilities regarding the child’s care. Schreiner was artificially inseminated and conceived, making her the child’s mother, as Bauer stepped into the role of the child’s father. Exit Marotta forever, with thanks.

Or so he thought. Continue reading

The Ethicist, the Farkel Family, and the Perils of “Maybe”

This photo is completely relevant to this post, but if you are under 50, you probably haven't a clue why. Pity. See below for an explanation.*

One of the reasons I started the Ethics Scoreboard, and continued with Ethics Alarms, was my frustration with the ethics profession’s reluctance to render useful opinions on complex ethical problems…unless, of course, the ethicist was being paid for them. Instead, ethicists are prone to issue obtuse and jargon-filled discussions allowing for every possible eventuality and interpretation, usually concluding with vague, equivocal pablum that allows the ethicist to avoid criticism and accountability. The result of this craven preference for “maybe” as the answer to every dilemma is that ethics are rarely included in public discourse or media coverage, as it solidifies its reputation for being technical, ambiguous, and pointless.

A perfect example of the reticence to make a clear choice occurs in this week’s installment of “The Ethicist,” the New York Times Magazine’s ethics column. An understandably anonymous inquirer writes that he unknowingly fathered a child with a married woman in his neighborhood, who raised the child as the offspring of her and her husband.  The mother asked the biological dad to have no contact with the girl, and he has complied. Now he asks, “Does she have a right to know her true parentage upon reaching adulthood? Sooner? Over the objection of the mother? Only when the husband dies? Who can make these decisions and when?” Continue reading

The “Baby Emma” Saga Revisited: The Core Issue

Didnt King Solomon have a case like this once?

When the mother of the child an unmarried father co-created with her decides that she doesn’t want to/ can’t raise the child and doesn’t trust the father to raise her, is it ethical to put said child up for adoption without notifying or consulting the father?

That is the ethical issue the “Baby Emma” incident, first discussed here in an earlier post, ultimately raises. It is a question that I did not discuss in that post, focusing instead on the father’s conduct and his current plight, as self-described on his “Baby Emma” website. I made three ethical assessments, each of which are self-evident:

1. The whole situation would have probably not occurred if John Wyatt and Baby Emma’s mother had been married before conceiving a child.

2. Both of them were irresponsible to plan on having a child together without formalizing a mutual commitment to form a family and raise the child together…that apparently archaic institution known as “marriage.”

3. The mother betrayed John’s trust, deceived him, and treated him unfairly.

I also suggested that, absent a marriage, it is fair and reasonable that the mother of a newborn be able to put the child up for adoption if she deems that course better for the child than being raised by the child’s father. I did not say that was the law, or even that I would vigorously oppose a law that directed otherwise, as Virginia’s law does. I only stated that my own belief is that incentives for irresponsible parenthood are unwise. I have been asked why I focused on the issue I did, rather than the other ethical issues raised by the controversy. It was because the issue was brought to me with the presumption that John Wyatt, the father, was a blameless and unequivocal victim in the matter. My ethics alarms sounded: he has significant ethical accountability for the mess, and I explained why.

As to the answer to question above, I can only say this: it depends. The conduct of Baby Emma’s mother is mysterious and extreme. Did she panic? Did she have a mental break? Why would a lifetime friend and partner of a man conceive a child, pretend to plan to raise her with him, and then secretly negotiate to have the baby adopted and taken out of state?

I see many scenarios that could be behind her decision, which fall into three distinct categories: ethical, unethical, and too close to call: Continue reading

Love Isn’t Enough: the “Baby Emma” Saga

Too bad Baby Emma's father didn't see "Juno" first...

This, from the birth father’s perspective, is the strange story of “Baby Emma,” a newborn whisked out of Virginia by her mother to be adopted by a couple in Utah, which has unusual laws that seem to circumvent fathers’ rights in others states:

“My name is John Wyatt,  the birth father of Baby Emma Wyatt,  born February 10, 2009 in Woodbridge, Virginia.  I have never held my daughter in my arms or even been allowed to see her in person.  My daughter has never had her Daddy hold her and say “I love you” to her, or hug her and kiss her.  Baby Emma and I have been denied those precious moments together.

“Imagine this happening to you: as a 20 year old, you have been friends with the mother since second grade and you have dated since middle school. You anxiously make preparations with the mother of your child, your childhood sweetheart,  for the arrival of your new baby.  You go to the doctor’s appointments, you rub the mother’s belly and feel your baby moving and kicking in the womb.  Both of you pick out the name.  It’s so exciting, you can hardly wait for the arrival of your new baby!! You look forward to what you expect to be the happiest moment of your life, to be with the mother and baby at birth…Both of you make plans on raising the baby together.  Continue reading