Can A Sperm Donor Have Too Many Kids?

Illustration for article titled Can A Sperm Donor Have Too Many Kids?

Many sperm donors assume they'll be biological dads to just a few children. But with the news that some donors have fathered over 100 kids come calls for tighter regulation.


According to the Times, children and families are beginning to discover that some sperm banks allow donors to father lots and lots of kids — one has over 150. And with these very large groups of half-siblings come risks: rare genetic conditions could be spread more widely through the gene pool, and children of the same donor could meet and, unbeknownst to them, commit incest. One mom has even taught her daughter her sperm donor's number so that she can avoid the latter possibility. Many parents are calling for tighter regulation so that donor children can know more about their donors, and the number of kids from each donor can be limited. And some men who donate sperm would prefer not to have over 100 biological kids.

Regulation seems like a win-win situation for everyone, except for sperm banks, which currently profit from the ability to sell the same man's sperm to lots of women. Many fertility clinics likely care about good outcomes for families and about honoring donors' wishes, and thus would adjust their rules accordingly if called upon to do so. But there might be a few holdouts. For instance, Forbes tells the story of a father-son team who started a "charitable organization" providing free sperm, then tried to claim tax-exempt status for it. Eighty-eight percent of the sperm apparently came from the son himself. It's unclear how many women bore this winner's offspring, but the IRS denied his request for exempt status, and his website no longer appears operational (although it once apparently listed his noteworthy achievements, such as taking 3rd place in a 4th grade science fair). Having this guy's genes spread liberally across the country sounds pretty horrifying — but weirdo tax-evader or not, it's probably not a good idea for anybody to have 150 kids.

1 Sperm Donor, 150 Brothers And Sisters [NYT]
Provision Of Sperm As A Charitable Activity [Forbes]

Image via yo-ichi/



I'm not really seeing why the potential incest thing is a concern? The reason incest is harmful is because of the family and power dynamics involved. From a genetic POV, you need multiple generations of incest to really see problems with the resulting offspring. From a social POV, the hypothetical kids here wouldn't grow up as family and would have no emotional ties to each other, and in all likelihood would never realize they were related. So I'm not seeing how that would harm them.

What is interesting about this is what it says about which sperm donors are most in demand, and why.