Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Sperm banks may need some regulation

The NY Times has the story: Sperm Banks Accused of Losing Samples and Lying About Donors

Some of the problems reported in the story are of the banking sort: when depositors sought to withdraw the sperm they had deposited (e.g. before undergoing chemo for testicular cancer) they found the bank no longer had it.  Others problems have had to do with incorrect information about donors...

"Frozen sperm has become a major industry, dominated by a few large sperm banks, but with smaller stocks of sperm maintained at hundreds of assisted-reproduction centers nationwide. The Food and Drug Administration requires that donor sperm be tested for infectious diseases. Beyond that, sperm banks are lightly regulated. Several states require health department licensing of the labs, but only New York conducts routine inspections.

"Some of the new cases accuse sperm banks of careless record-keeping, or mishandling or misappropriation of sperm banked for a client’s personal use. Others say the banks use hyped, misleading descriptions to market their donors.

"Several cases accuse a Georgia facility of marketing sperm as belonging to a neuroscientist with a genius-level I.Q. who turned out to be a schizophrenic felon, and who has fathered at least 36 children.
"Sperm banks are not required to verify the information provided by donors, and lawyers familiar with the industry say many do not. They set their own limits on how many children a donor can sire, but unless the mothers voluntarily report the births, they may not know how many half-siblings are out there. Some, including the two largest, California Cryobank in Los Angeles and Fairfax Cryobank, headquartered in Virginia, test for many genetic conditions, while others test for very few.

"So it is buyer-beware — for people banking their own sperm for personal use after cancer treatment, and for those relying on a sperm bank’s description of an anonymous donor.

"Sean Tipton, a spokesman for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, said his group does not see a need for further regulation and believes that the industry is generally reliable.

“All indications are that sperm donation has been a terrific way to help people start a family even if, as with anything that involves humans, there are mistakes and some less-than-perfect actors,” he said."

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