Tuesday, May 15, 2012

risks of sperm donation : nyt article

Very interesting article today on the NYT.  It's a case of birth of a child affected with cystic fibrosis from sperm donation.  It appears that the sperm sample was 20 years old and was not appropriately tested.

As usual the NYT article is very sensationalistic. I consider this failure of appropriately testing the sperm donor unforgivable but  it is important to note that the article does not clarify if the case was due to an error in the lab that tested the blood : in this case this would have nothing to do with sperm donation but with quality control at the genetic lab . 
The article fails to point out one very important fact: the incidence of cystic fibrosis in the United States is 1 in 3600.  It is estimated that about 60,000 babies are born from sperm donation in the United States every year. This is the first case that we hear of in many years (although there may be a handful of others).  Nevertheless it is very likely that the risk of acquiring a genetic disorder from a sperm donor is hundreds of times less than in the “wild”. Unfortunately it is not zero.  

As i went through the comments to the nyt article i happened to read this  from an egg donor:
 I read this article with personal interest because I was an egg donor. I did it about 20 years ago in graduate school. I did it for the money. I felt good about it because I believe I helped women to have children and also experience pregnancy and childbirth. I believe I helped women/couples who truly wanted to take on the responsibility of parenthood.

I was tested thoroughly based on what was available at the time. I didn't lie about my diverse, mutt-like pan-European background for fear of being rejected. I didn't lie about the few hereditary things I knew about. I admitted having had my teeth and nose straightened. I was actually thrilled to learn that, so far as testing could tell, I was not a carrier of any known hereditary disorders.

Within five years of my donation, I had my own children. They are healthy and thriving. Are they perfect? Nope. While I am glad to be anonymous and I don't in any way consider myself a parent to any genetic offspring from my donation, I would willingly acknowledge the connection to provide a genetic blue print or to support any kind of serious health concern that might arise in a person conceived by my donation (just not the crooked teeth or nose).

Should the sperm banks and fertility clinics keep records and be held accountable for their work? Absolutely. Can we expect perfection? Nope. Babies are still miracles and we must love them as they are.

I think these words summarize very well my experience with oocyte donors. 

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