Brief News Round-Up from the World of ART

There are a several recent news stories that have been open in tabs on my browser for too many days.  (This is the modern equivalent of laying on my desk, I think.)  I thought I’d lump them together here to at least get them out into the world of the web.   I’ll only attach a few brief thoughts for each, but of course, I can always add more later.   I think they all probably tie back to earlier discussion here and I’ll try to link to that. 

First, from Spain comes this story of global surrogacy gone awry.   A Spanish gay male couple employed a surrogate in California.   The surrogate gave birth in Los Angeles and the two men were recorded as parents of the child.  This is proper under California law.   But surrogacy is not legal in Spain.   Under the law of Spain the woman who gave birth is a parent and the men who commissioned the surrogacy are not.   (If the woman is married, her husband might also be a parent.)  

This is one of those cases where the gap between the law of two countries causes serious problem.   I’ve commented on this in the past with surrogacy outsourced to India.  Sometimes people can travel to avoid the law of their home country and take advantage of the law elsewhere.   But as this case shows, sometimes the law of your home country will turn out to be determinative in the end.  Surely the one thing I can say for sure is that cases like this are extremely problematic for all concerned. 

Second, there’s this case from California between a woman and a sperm donor.   The outcome here is actually just what anyone who knows California law should expect:  The sperm donor is not a father.    Here’s an instance where the law is quite clear (in contrast to the surrogacy problem above) and the problem is that people don’t know what the law is.   I realize, of course, that those who believe that genetics should determine legal parentage don’t like this legal rule, but I’m fine with it.   And I think the clarity of the law is admirable.    (You can find many other sperm provider/donor cases here, including yesterday’s discussion of the unwitting sperm donor.) 

It might also be worth noting that the most combative cases–like this one and another from some months ago–arise when people use known providers/donors.   Anonymity protects people using third-party sperm from this sort of litigation.    There has been lengthy discussion here of the problems created by anonymity.   (You can see some of it in the comments to the last link.)   But you can see why people choose anonymity when you see the problems that can arise from the absence of anonymity.  

And finally–a follow-up on something I commented on a long while back.    Nigel Woodforth and Ricky Gage were convicted of running an illegal fertility clinic in the UK recently.   

I don’t post this because I am in favor of a completely unregulated fertility industry, but rather to note two points.  First, the need for criminal enforcement seems to be tied to an effort to ensure there are no unknown sperm providers.  Thus, a few friends acting together to supply a woman with sperm from an unidentifed man would also be subject to prosecution.   Second, whether or not a sperm provider is a legal father apparently turns on whether the clinic involved is properly licensed.  I don’t think I’d appreciated that bit of line drawing before.


4 responses to “Brief News Round-Up from the World of ART

  1. Although I oppose anonymity, criminalizing the actions of private people is worse. A citizen should have autonomy over there own body.

    Business and medical organizations must be regulated, people and what they do with their own bodies- no.

  2. Don’t you think that it is a bit nonsensical to decide a case of parentage based on whether a clinic is appropriately licensed or not? To me that seems completely arbitrary, even more arbitrary than on whether sexual intercourse took place or not.

  3. “The core of the problem is apparently the legal requirement that the identity of sperm donors be made available to children concieved using that sperm when the children turn 18. The loss of anonymity led to the sperm shortage. “

    At the risk of repeating myself, and as you have noted yourself since, according to HFEA figures, the numbers of sperm donors have gone *up* four years in a row since the ending of anonymity, thus reversing a three year decline. The 384 donors in 2008 was the highest figure since 1996, and 160 more than in 2004 just before anonymity ended.

    In this particular case, the HFEA seems to me to be way out of line. No-one was being misled, and informed adults can make decisions for themselves, without the help of people in white coats with the right letters after their name. They can exaggerate the risks of “unregulated” gamete donation all they want – the fact is that the vast majority of people are conceived without the help of any fertility specialists, and (gasp!) without any STI tests being performed.

    It’s not as if the clinics have such a shining record themselves. I’ve lost count of the number of times the wrong embryos or sperm have been implanted in a woman. That’s just in the UK – some of the stories coming out of north America are shocking.

    You may be interested in the following:

  4. I guess my question is: Define donor. How can a man be a sperm donor if the sperm was being used to create offspring that he intended to raise? Not that I think intention has anything to do with whether or not a person is a parent, but it seems to matter to whoever wrote the laws that need to change. You can’t donate something to yourself.

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