The Sperm Bank Mix Uppath-to-fertility

spermI was having a lovely day. Really, I was. Productive, busy, interesting, fun. Great meeting at work with co-workers that I respect and of whom I am fond. Great Fertile Yoga and Prenatal Yoga class. All around good, busy day.

Then I started to hear whispers. Something about a sperm bank mix up. Something about a baby being different in a way that they were not prepared for by their parent. Immediately, faces popped into my mind. Patients, especially our single moms to be (SMTB), who are currently making important choices about donor sperm and donor sperm banks. Choices that were hard to settle into, that required a lot of thought and then a small leap of faith. Following closely behind those beautiful women came the faces of our RMACT third party reproduction team. Consternation was likely the emotion felt as the damage control that needs to be done has suddenly increased their already heavy work day. Damage control because of course there are going to be more questions, more levels of questions and a much higher level of anxiety than there was three days ago.

I have read very little about this so far. Seen a few pictures. Heard a few fairly hysterical headlines and accusations. I’m sure it’s going to get very ugly, very fast. I’m sure it will be polarizing and that each side will feel and know that the other point of view is just plain wrong.

The blame game will be in full force, I suspect, by later today.

I have to say, I just hate this. I so very rarely use that word. It feels ugly and harsh in my mouth and it looks the same way when I write it.

Still, I hate this.

Here’s why.

First and foremost, there is a beautiful baby out there, getting lots and lots and lots of attention that she never needed, wanted, or asked for. It’s not the kind of attention that any baby needs. It’s not nurturing or loving or delighted.

Please understand I am not blaming the parent or parents here. The second reason that I hate this is because regardless of how they feel about their baby (I hope so much that they love her), they probably feel betrayed. They were promised one thing and they were let down. They put their hopes and dreams into a little basket and handed it over, with a bunch of money, and thought they would receive what they paid for; that’s a reasonable expectation. It really is. It’s a reasonable expectation to have a legal and financial agreement that is upheld responsibly. So, please, let’s not blame the parent and start throwing mud about whether they love their baby or not. That’s not really the point.

I’m not blaming the sperm agency. Yet. The horrible fact is that no matter how incredibly good, how protected, how safe any protocol  is, there is rarely 100% success. In other words, mistakes are made in most places of business, even if extraordinarily rarely. Notice the use of words please. Incredibly and extraordinarily. To put this in perspective, we would need to know how many vials of donor sperm are sold and used in the USA. And I looked, very carefully for that information. I tried numerous different searches, including the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) and SART (Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology), and I couldn’t find it. So I can’t actually tell you that this only happens 10% of the time. Or 1% of the time. Or even .00% of the time.

About the Disclosure of Medical Errors

I did find this interesting link, titled “Disclosure of medical errors involving gametes and embryos, which is quite interesting and which is written by the Ethics Committee of the ASRM, (our own Andrea Braverman, PhD, was one of the authors). ASRM’s mission statement is, “ASRM is a multidisciplinary organization dedicated to the advancement of the science and practice of reproductive medicine. The Society accomplishes its mission through the pursuit of excellence in education and research and through advocacy on behalf of patients, physicians, and affiliated health care providers. The Society is committed to facilitating and sponsoring educational activities for the lay public and continuing medical education activities for professionals who are engaged in the practice of and research in reproductive medicine.”

At the very least, this paper, among many others helped me simmer down and reminded me that this is a medical field that looks at things very seriously. Reproductive medicine has two major groups that help regulate standards of practice, ASRM and SART. SART’s mission statement, “SART is the primary organization of professionals dedicated to the practice of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) in the United States. ART includes the practice of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). The mission of our organization is to set up and help maintain the standards for ART in an effort to better serve our members and our patients.”

This is an arm of medicine that takes its responsibilities about standard of care very seriously. Thank goodness.

Donor Sperm - What Are the Risks?

OK, back on track here. No matter how infrequently, how micro-tiny that possibility of donor sperm mix up or other failure is, we don’t want it to happen. We don’t want it to happen to our friends, family, our colleagues, ourselves. We don’t want it to happen, ever.

We hate when it happens. It brings up all of our fears that next time? It will happen to us. Of course it brings up those fears. It is a frequently asked question from most people who are looking to become pregnant via sperm donation, even without this issue in the media.  “How do I know that the sperm I am purchasing is what I am being told it is?”

Of course this brings up our fear. And our outrage. And out comes the blame game.

Blame someone. Anyone. Everyone.

That will ensure that it never happens again.

Uh. No, it actually won’t. Unfortunately, not.

So while you’re reading about all this today and trying not to freak out that this could happen to you, please know how incredibly small the chances are that it would or could. I promise that I will have some actual numbers for you by Monday morning.

Meanwhile, to all involved and all those who feel the need to comment, please just have some compassion. Please try to avoid playing the blame game.

There is a beautiful baby out there who has no reason to be dragged into that kind of ugliness. If for nothing else, let’s keep the ugliness to a minimum please.

Topics: Sperm, Third Party Reproduction, Fertility Treatment

Lisa Rosenthal

Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.

Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.

Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.

Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.

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