A lawsuit has been filed in the Netherlands against a man who is believed to have used his own sperm to deliver around 550 people, far more than the 25 required by national guidelines on gamete donation (in Italy the maximum number is 10). The guidelines are not binding and for privacy reasons it is difficult to identify who does not respect them: according to the foundation that filed the lawsuit, Donorkind, by donating serially and excessively the man would have exposed the people born from his donations to damage . In these cases, in fact, there is the non-negligible risk that they meet and reproduce without knowing they are related, for example.
The man would have donated both in authorized clinics and through unregulated Internet sites: the details of the lawsuit have not yet been released by Donorkind and it is not clear what the man is accused of. The foundation’s lawyer, Mark de Hek, accuses him of having lied to the clinics and to the women he met, declaring that he had not given birth to more than 25 people to convince them to choose him and making his desire to reproduce prevail over any risks.
Donorkind, which brings together families born from heterologous fertilization (the assisted procreation technique that involves the external donation of gametes), refers to the possibility that some of the 550 born one day reproduce among themselves, exposing the children to the risk of pathologies or anomalies . Another problem is the psychological consequences, for newborns, of discovering they have dozens and dozens of close relatives they didn’t know they had, for example with do-it-yourself DNA tests (which are not always reliable anyway): they are all risks linked to uncontrolled gamete donations, which are also discussed in other countries of the world where there are no clear or too stringent rules in this regard.
The case of the Netherlands is not the first of its kind, however it is the first time that such a lawsuit is being filed: Donorkind has asked that the man be stopped from donating again and that the clinics where he has donated and which currently have his sperm stored destroy it, except in cases where people who have already used want to use it to make other children with the same genetic heritage.
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The man at the center of the case is a 41-year-old musician named Jonathan Meijer. In the Netherlands he had already been known since 2017, when an investigation by the Ministry of Health had discovered that with his donations he had given birth to at least 102 boys and girls. He had succeeded by finding some loopholes in the regulation of donations: as mentioned, the guidelines that recommend a maximum of 25 births per donor are not binding, and often the individual clinics do not exchange their data with each other, also for reasons of privacy. Just citing the privacy rules, at the beginning of last year the Danish Minister of Health Ernst Kuipers He said that he doesn’t have the tools to prevent cases like Meijer’s.
In the Netherlands, every clinic makes donors sign a declaration stating that they have not donated before and that they do not intend to donate in another clinic: in 2017 it was discovered that Meijer had donated in at least 10 several clinics, claiming each time that they have never donated before.
Following the investigation by the Ministry of Health, the man had been reported to all clinics to prevent his sperm from being used and to have it placed on an unofficial “black list”, but he had continued to donate by turning to banks of the international seeds such as Cryos International, one of the largest in the world, or in clinics in other countries such as Spain and the Ukraine (now it is not known exactly where he lives, but it seems that he is in Kenya) taking advantage of the fact that there is obviously no international registry of gamete donors. Meijer had also donated on private websites, which lack all the legal and health protections most guaranteed by regulated routes.
The case that led to the lawsuit occurred precisely on one of these sites, with a woman, known as Eva, who had had a child thanks to a man’s donation in 2018. On his profile on the site, the man He said that he hadn’t delivered more than 25 people, as local guidelines suggested, and the woman had believed him. “If I had known that he had already delivered over 100 people I would never have chosen him,” she said.
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