When Sarah Robertson’s husband died of a rare genetic disorder at the age of 29, her grief was tempered by the thought that someday, when she was ready, there were six vials of her husband’s sperm stored at a fertility center that she could use to have the baby both of them had wanted. But when that day came, 10 years after his death, Robertson was told the vials had gone missing, and had, in fact, been used for other pregnancies without letting the other parents know about Robertson’s genetic disorder.
Now Robertson is suing the Los Angeles-based Reproductive Fertility Center and its owner, one of a handful of recent lawsuits against sperm banks focusing on deception and negligence in their practices. The suits have highlighted the lack of regulations governing sperm banks, including letting the businesses set their own rules for how many children donors can have and how they keep their records and verify information. Multiple cases accuse a Georgia sperm bank of lying about sperm that it said belonged to a neuroscientist with a genius I.Q., when in reality it belonged to a schizophrenic felon.
“Even in New York, when they inspect, they’re looking at hygienic conditions not record-keeping,” said Arthur Caplan, a bioethics professor at New York University. “Nobody confirms that you have what you say you have.”
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