Overdrawn At The Sperm Bank – II

Yesterday I wrote about life imitating art, more or less, in my interpretation of a news story about an American sperm bank. Today my thoughts continue.

My curiosity get the better of me and I looked on the sperm bank’s website. Privacy is very important to them, all information is kept confidential. Well, we know already how that has worked for them. The first donor profile I looked at was nine pages – and that was just what I could see for free. There was more information available to the paying customers, and a sample of the enhanced profile ran to 17 pages.

I didn’t see IQ listed anywhere, but you can choose the religious beliefs of your donor if you like. Yes, you have choices as to hair colour, eye colour, weight and the like, but you can also choose your sperm’s religious affiliation. When I looked there were eight Baptist donors available (the shortest being 5’10, I guess being Baptist makes you tall), 30 Roman Catholics but zero Muslims. I know that some scientists have postulated the existence of a “god gene” that predisposed people to religious belief, but I didn’t think being Baptist or Episcopalian was an inherited characteristic.

So what do you do if you are a parent and discover your sperm donor wasn’t what/who you signed up for? How does this affect your relationship with your child and your feelings toward them?

For most of us, our children come about because of a combination of genes drawn from husband and wife (I won’t get technical here – high school biology was long ago, and I may not have understood it that well back then. Lower IQ I assume, I’m no Einstein). But there are no guarantees. Seems to me like those people using the sperm bank were expecting some sort of guarantee. Otherwise why the lawsuits? They were infertile, they now have a child. Not quite what they expected perhaps, but the wording I saw on several characteristics categories stated that the clinic had not verified the donor information.

Given the sensitive nature of the industry, I was surprised to read that the clinic did not do more to verify those claims. That would seem to me to be a standard of care that would just be assumed. Maybe it wasn’t seen as being ethically necessary, but you would expect some sort of due diligence. Or maybe fact-checking would cost too much and cut into the profit margin. I wonder if they verified simple things like eye and hair colour. I imagine they did. And I suspect future donors will receive much more scrutiny.

I wonder also how much scrutiny they subject the prospective parents to. Can anyone just walk in off the street and purchase sperm? Well, yes and no. You have to be under a doctor’s care, but I didn’t see any questionnaire. I presume you could fake the doctor’s care thing and handle everything yourself, but why would you? Unless you were trying to save money. Children are expensive after all.

Just thinking about the process annoys me. Maybe I’m old fashioned. Maybe it’s that choosing a list of donor characteristics seems to me to be too much like internet dating. We have a long list of wants, nothing can be left to chance. Yet so much of life is random, and the clinic can’t guarantee how the sperm sample provided with interact with the recipient. Making a baby with the desired hair and eye colour still has a large chance element to it. Unless they offer cloning, which I suppose is what is coming next. Our culture does exhibit narcissistic tendencies after all, why shouldn’t our children be perfect replicas of ourselves?

Except….Children are not a commodity. We may try and commercialize everything we touch, but we are talking about humans here. Fearfully and wonderfully made. In God’s image. And maybe that’s part of the problem for so many. A society that has rejected God has little desire to see anything in his image.

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