Waldlaw Blog

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Octo-Mom's Donor -- Donor or Father?

I have a general policy that once I've been asked the same question 3 times in one week, it's time to blog about it. I guess that means that I now have to blog about the "octo-mom." Let me start by saying that I have no more information about this case than what I've gleaned from news reports and from reading the headlines of the tabloids while waiting in line to pay for my groceries. I honestly never expected to be asked for my opinion on this situation. But then, a little over a week ago, my phone rang. It was ABC News in New York, calling to discuss the status of the man whose sperm was used to conceive the octuplets. And then, over the weekend, a colleague who doesn't do assisted reproduction work asked the same question. And then a dinner guest did. Time to blog.... Here is my analysis re: the genetic father of the octuplets: If he provided his sperm to a physician, and not to "octo-mom" herself, and if he did so with the intent to conceive children with someone other than his wife, he is legally a sperm donor and not a father. As such, he has no legal rights and no legal responsibilities for the children. This would change if he provided the sperm directly to "octo-mom," instead of to a physician. It would change if he married or attempted to marry "octo-mom" before the children were born. It might change if he and "octo-mom" had a written agreement by which they clearly stated their intent that he be a father to the children, despite a physician's involvement in the conception. Otherwise, it is my professional opinion that genetic dad is simply a sperm donor, shielded by the law from any financial responsibility for these kids. And here is my worst fear about this case, from a legal perspective: bad cases make for bad laws. I fear that the public's horror about this situation will cause our courts and/or our legislature to decide that it is bad public policy to have a clear category of "sperm donors" who have no legal responsibility for their genetic offspring. I fear that this one very public abuse of the system established to address the legal rights and responsibilities of people using assisted reproduction will lead to a response that hurts everyone who is responsibly involved in assisted procreation. I hope that this fear turns out to be unfounded.


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