January 17, 2011

'Sperm banking was--and in many ways, is--the Wild West'

Wow, from Maud Newton's interview with Misha Angrist, a geneticist whose new book, This Is A Human Being, addresses the personal, social and political issues of the current & coming genomic inforevolution:

MN: Speaking of using DNA to determine ancestry, I was fascinated by the story of Kirk Maxey, the former sperm donor who may have fathered up to 400 biological children.

MA: I've met people whose only response to that story is "eww." And I think that that's a real shame. Kirk is a wonderful guy who was an ingenuous medical student in the late 70s/early 80s and donated sperm to make extra money and because he and his wife thought it would be an altruistic thing to do. They also thought that most of his donations were going to research, when in fact none of them were.

MN: And then Maxey decided he wanted to find all his children.

MA: He is really the antithesis of the stereotypical frat-boy sperm donor getting paid to jerk off. He feels terrible about what happened and wants to know that his biological children are okay.

MN: His donations were split, you say, sometimes by as much as 8:1. Jesus.

MA: According to Kirk, by diluting donations down to levels that were unlikely to impregnate, the clinics could force women to buy additional vials of sperm. In other words, poor quality control was a money-making proposition.

Sperm banking was--and in many ways, is--the Wild West: it is an almost completely unregulated industry. Wendy Kramer, who founded the Donor Sibling Registry for donor-conceived kids to find their biological half-siblings, has a million stories about the shit that goes on. I hope she writes a book someday.

A Conversation with Misha Angrist, Publisher of His Genome [theawl]

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