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Ethics Consult: Sperm Donor Responsible for Autistic Children??
Welcome to Ethics Consult -- an opportunity to discuss, debate (respectfully), and learn together. We present an ethical dilemma in patient care; you vote on your decision in the case. Next week, we'll reveal how you all made the call. And stay tuned -- Gregory Dolin, MD, JD, will weigh in next week with an ethical framework to help you learn and prepare.
Multiple children conceived with the same donor's sperm have been diagnosed with autism or related developmental challenges. One same-sex couple went as far as conceiving two children with sperm from the same man. Both of these children, now ages 6 and 7, have special needs and require full-time care.
The donor, now in his 40s, is an athletic 6-foot-tall blond-haired, blue-eyed, highly accomplished banker, who has no history of autism or other developmental disorders, and made no indication of such in donor bank questionnaires.
There are some non-specific tests but these weren't run by the sperm bank. Preliminary research suggests that the sperm may contain epigenetic markers of autism risk, but no definitive screen or test exists.
Gregory Dolin, MD, JD, is associate professor of law and co-director, Center for Medicine and Law at the University of Baltimore, where he also studies biopharmaceutical patent law. His work includes a number of scholarly articles, presentations, amicus briefs, and congressional testimony.
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