There has been literally hundreds of Sperm bank Horror stories over the years, without listing every single one of them here are a few listed below, while not every clinic has had a known horror story, I think it’s important to highlight that the horror stories of clinics happen on a more frequent occurrence than outer clinic options.
1 Genetic Conditions passed on through donor
In 1990-1991 a then young 23-year-old man underwent standard clinical testing. He was found to be negative of any genetic diseases that they tested for and was allowed to donate over this 2 year period in which he helped in the conceiving of 22 children via the clinic. In 2005 the donor first found out that he had MYH7 mutation gene that causes Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). For those who are unfamiliar with this disease it is a condition that effects the heart muscle and the walls are more thickened and enlarged than your normal regular heart, this can cause many complications it is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death.
Of the 22 children born from this donor via the clinic 9 (41%) of those in which 6 were males inherited the gene. 3 out of 9 have experienced complications because of HCM and sadly one of those children died at the age of 2 and half year’s old, while another had to have cardioverter-defibrillator implant to prevent sudden death. He also had 2 of his own children with his wife who were obviously born through natural methods. Coincidentally or not these children were both born fine.
In 2006 it came to attention that a Michigan donor at a local sperm bank passed on congenital neutropenia to 5 children he helped conceive. Congenital neutropenia is a rare disease that is possessed in about 1 in 5 million although each child that has it has a 50% ratio of then passing it on to any children that they may have. The disease lacks a particular type of white blood cell which makes the occupant highly vulnerable to infections and prone to leukemia. Daily shots of a drug called Neupogen help protect against infections however doesn’t protect them from leukemia.
We will jump ahead to 2016 when news of Christian Aggeles broke the donor who sired 36 children worldwide through Xytex Cryo international sperm bank. He was listed on the website as a donor with a PhD in neuroscience engineering with an iq of 130 when in fact he was a college dropout, had done time in gaol for burglary and more disturbingly had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and narcissistic personality disorder.
2 Mixups of Sperm
In 2012 Jennifer Cramblett in Ohio gave birth to a beautiful mixed-race baby from the help of her clinic. Except what she paid for was the product of a Caucasian donor, donor identity 380 instead she got given donor number 330 sperm who was African-American. In Australia, most donors are Caucasian, so the chances of a mixed raced baby are lower. However, it does make me wonder how often vials of sperm are mixed up and because both donors are Caucasian anyway we don’t ever question if we got given the right sperm.
3 Power and Equipment supply failure at Clinics
Flinders Medical Centre located in our backyard of South Australia lost 50 frozen embryos due to wild weather causing blackouts across the state on Wednesday September 28th, 2016. At the time chief executive Stefan Moro released a statement offering his condolences and providing counselling. However, what I found the most shocking was compensation offer, of simply if the families want to repeat the procedure they would be given priority and wouldn’t face any additional charges. How disgusting these people have been taking medication had egg extraction and the best you can do is offer the procedure again for “free” for them to have to do another invasive procedure. It just reeked of corporate greed.
A report came out a few months later found that the backup generator failed due to human error “The direct cause of this loss of standby power was related to the failure of the diesel fuel system of one generator, most likely caused by human error in wrongly leaving a control switch off,” the report found. The report also found that backup generators weren’t setup with the appropriate alarms to notify staff of an impending shutdown. It is quite common for generators of importance to be setup with these features, yet they were not. The report found that the lack of equipment around the generators was not appropriate in assisting them help fix the generator in time.
One of the ladies affected by the major debacle was 42-year-old Kristy Price she had embryos frozen at the age of 38 she had conceived her first child successfully her first son reached the age of 2 and she was looking at using her last 2 remaining embryos in giving her son a sibling. Those dreams all came crashing down when she was notified of the unthinkable happening. For people like Kristy her eggs biological age in now 42, her eggs at 38 well proved viable in the conception of her first child. What had happened that day simply can’t be replaced, and no amount of compensation could replace what she had lost.
What we can learn from this story was a classic example of clinic pure neglect doing the bare minimum these clinics make good profits and to not invest in safety-net features for their customers just demonstrates greed, selfishness and lack of care. They didn’t offer any real compensation package, what happened that day no paying customer should have had to deal with that. This story will play on the minds of many people with stored embryos every time a major storm or blackout hits.
Roll on to over the weekend of March 3rd 2018 where what described as catastrophic failure took place at the University Hospital Fertility Center in Cleveland, Ohio. 1000 patients were affected and 4000 frozen eggs and embryos were lost.
The fault was put down to human error, the tank that was preserving all the eggs and embryos in, the alarm was switched off and failed to notify of rising temperatures that ultimately was responsible for the destruction.
Could it have been sabotaged from a disgruntled employee? It can’t be ruled out from the investigation the clinic remains unsure of who turned off the remote alarm? They don’t even know how long it was switched off for? Although they do acknowledge it seems it had been switched off for a period of time.
They were having problems with the tank several weeks prior and the autofill function wasn’t working so employees were having to manually refill it? It just doesn’t sit right with me that a new tank wasn’t sorted straight away and that they persisted which lead to this outcome.
My question is to those considering storing embryos and freezing their eggs? Is how safe are they really, how easy is it for people to tamper with the storage devices whether on purpose or by accident? How often are they monitored and checked over to ensure backup mechanisms are fully functioning in working order? A lot of people lost their ability to have a child or have further siblings from that horrendous event.
In regard to this story an investigation carried out by NBC News found that Custom Biogenic Systems (CBS) the manufacturer of the storage tank that malfunctioned has a history spanning back almost 15 years, with 21 reported incidents occurring in the UK alone.
So if you’re going to down this path of freezing embryos, you might want to ask questions on what type of tank they’re using at the clinic? Who has access to these tanks? What is the back up power system like? How often do they receive a service? Do they have a backup alarm just in case the first alarm fails or switched off?
4 Clinic employees using their own sperm
There have been many reported incidents of Clinic employees all around the world using their own sperm to impregnate women, that’s the problem with clinics, vials can easily get mixed up or tampered with so you’re getting someone else’s sperm on purpose. It’s quite common because people who get involved in fertility a lot of time like to procreate, I personally liked helping people because I knew I could personally help them have healthy children that will grow up to live long lives with minimal health risks, however I have morale boundaries, one where I haven’t been driven on numbers, secondly I would like to know the people I am donating to rather than spreading my seed to strangers. Yet of course throughout the world there our donors that are numbers driven and these people with those same passion of life could easily find themselves giving into temptation when working within a clinical environment.
Dating all the way back to 1943 a fertility clinic in London founded by an Austrian Biologist Bertold Wiesner and his wife Mary Barton. For many decades it was never discovered that the clinics owner was providing the sperm for a large majority of babies conceived via this clinic. Enter Barry Stevens born in 1952 a Toronto based film producer, ever since he became a young adult he was obsessed in finding out his origins, he discovered a couple of half siblings early on that left him with a trail of clues that helps him find out who his biological father he released a couple of TV documentaries, Offspring (2001) and Bio-Dad (2009).
Barry Stevens was dedicated for answers, and he initially tracked down 18 people conceived via the same clinic between the dates of 1943 and 1962. They all voluntarily did a DNA test and the results were astounding 12 of these people were to find out they were all genetically related via the same sperm donor. Based on the number of births the clinic helped create it is safe to say the Barry has at least 600 half siblings out there but from other reports it could be up to a 1000.
This particular story was just the beginning of many more to come and it may have never been found out had it not been for Barry Stevens and his quest decades later to uncover his origins.
These types of stories make for interesting TV, and Barry Stevens documentaries weren’t the first to go to air in 1994 “The Babymaker: The Dr. Cecil Jacobson Story” also released as “Seeds of Deception”. The film takes us back to 1985 and centers around a doctor that runs his own clinic in Vienna, VA (although he ran the clinic from 1976 to 1988). The film exposes some lies about false pregnancies, I guess you can say Dr. Jacobson was an odd man he told women they were pregnant when they were not, or told them they were still pregnant when they had lost it? I am not sure how he thought the lie could be sustainable when a child wasn’t born 9 months later, let alone no pregnancy bumps developing over that time.
He was later charged with misleading patients that they were pregnant among multiple counts of fraud, I guess this got the town and media talking and rumors started emerging that he possibly used his own sperm for quite a few of his patients. There were no laws established a doctor couldn’t be the donor although many testify being told by Dr. Jacobson that the sperm came from an anonymous donor.
One couple even testified that the doctor had told them he has new technique to get the wife pregnant from her husbands’ sperm, they went on to have two children through the clinic and DNA tests later confirmed that her husband was not the father in fact it was Dr. Jacobson.
Dr. Jacobson had some distinct features that were easily recognized in his offspring and some of the parents picked up on it from a very young age. During the trial prosecutors had 17 Children do a DNA test and of those 15 came back to be the doctors. It is believed that their could be as many of 75 children out there through the use of his sperm.
On May 8th 1992 the 55 year-old Father of 8 children he sired with his wife was sentenced to 5 years in jail for his various fraud charges he was found guilty of was also fined $116,805. It has been reported that many of the biological children require glasses and have a lazy eye believed to be passed on through his genetics.
In 2005 a lawsuit was put against a Greenwich, Connecticut Dr. Ben D. Ramaley, it was quickly settled for an undisclosed payment. So, the doctor and the recipients weren’t allowed to discuss. The case had came about because a Caucasian Lady and her African-American husband used the clinic to conceive and that they did, it resulted in twins, the problem was though the children were very fair and showed no signs of being mixed race, after several months of speculating the couple had a DNA test performed which confirmed the husband was not the biological father of the children. It is alleged that Dr. Ramaley was indeed the biological father of the children.
The department of Public Health’s investigation put it down to mislabeling of specimen vials and simply gave him a slap on wrist fine of only $10,000. It’s kind of jaw-dropping that such a major outcome was swept under the matt with this conclusion and such a minor fine and that he was allowed to keep his medical license without even a suspension.
Whether or not Dr. Ramaley used his own sperm we may not ever know or take a couple of decades to unearth. The question remains is was it planned to use his own sperm and that by having a lack of system in place to identify vials of sperm of donors that he used it as an excuse that the sperm got mixed up or was it just pure neglect and disrespect for the patients? It would certainly beg the questions to those who go to the clinic to ask questions of what systems they have in place so they’re receiving the right sperm they’re after, and does beg the question how often does sperm get mixed up whether on purpose or by mistake?
Which takes me to our next story from Broadview Fertility Clinic in Ottawa, Canadian based Dr. Norman Barwin very similar circumstances as of the 7th of April 2018 he faces accusations of inseminating 11 of clients with his own sperm. Dr. Barwin now in his late 70s has had over 150 individuals come forward in ever growing lawsuit against him dating back to his practices since the 1970s. 51 of the people who they thought was their biological father the DNA did not strike a match. 16 of these children were supposed to had been conceived through husbands sperm did not match who they grew up thinking was their biological father and the remaining 35 who were conceived through anonymous donor sperm, their DNA didn’t match up with the donor they were allocated to them off the paper.
Quite ironic when Dr. Barwin was on the record telling one reporter that inseminating a patient with the wrong sperm was his “worst nightmare”. This simply wasn’t a case of 1 error but over 51 and counting, how could a person make the same mistake that many times after specifically saying that unless it was all a front and never thought he would be held liable for?
Other mentions go out to Indiana based Dr Donald Cline who through out the 70s and 80s is accused of impregnating up to 50 women from his clinic. His reasons being he didn’t always have access to fresh sperm and wanted to help as many women as he could, so he supplied his own. Through genetic testing one lady was linked to 9 other siblings one of those links was Doug Cline, Dr. Clines very own son who admitted over a Facebook chat that his father admitted to using his own sperm.
Dr. Cline who initially denied the allegation eventually pleaded guilty at the age of 79 he had stopped practicing since 2009 anyway so his one-year suspension didn’t affect him and he avoided potential jail time. One of the children affected by this said he isn’t remorseful of his actions and the only thing that upsets him is that he got caught.
As you can see there has been various amounts of horror stories that have unfolded at clinics over the years. Some of these stories only were uncovered by chance, there is no doubt many more stories that have still yet to be discovered and some will never be dug up.
When we think of clinics we think medical professionals, high technology and expect systems to be in place that will ultimately protect their customers. We can now see how things can go wrong in an array of different areas in the clinical environment. Whether you are that woman that wants to freeze your eggs from a young age, so you can use your eggs later in life, what guarantee do you have in place that power outage won’t end your parenting dream? What guarantee are you getting that the persons sperm you requested is the specimen being using? Would it be better to screen your donor for your own genetic testing requirements that is more complex than what the clinics offer to ensure reduce risk of health implications? These are some of the questions you may want to ask yourself based on past-history of clinics.
If you don’t require medical intervention to become pregnant by picking a donor for artificial insemination at home at least you know for certain where that sperm is coming from. The ability to speak to your donor face to face and removing the middleman from possible human error or handing out his own sperm is eradicated from the equation.
I also dislike when Clinics become unethical and blackmail their customers I regard this as highly unprofessional, a lady in Victoria in 2014 used a local clinic at age of 37, she underwent the IUI procedure and was lucky enough to achieve a first-time success. Soon after the baby turned 2 she decided it was time to give her child a sibling, so she went to the same clinic, so she could access her donor’s sperm. Unfortunately, she didn’t get pregnant first cycle this time, which would have been an amazing feat to be able to achieve that, oh well wasn’t to be and she notified the clinic to try again next cycle. The clinic turned around and said if you want to use the same donor sperm for your sibling you have to start trying IVF instead. It’s fair enough to say she felt furious and couldn’t believe the betrayal.
Clinics certainly need to become more upfront with their recipients and treat them fairly. With myself being around I hope to keep them accountable, so they raise their standards because when people are paying that much for a service they should be treated fairly.