New Scientist reports that a 13-year-old girl with Fragile X Syndrome – a severe genetic disorder – is suing the sperm bank that provided the sperm that led to her conception.
Curiously, the legal issue hinges on “a product liability law more commonly associated with manufacturing defects, such as faulty car brakes”:
Donovan does not have to show that Idant was negligent, only that the
sperm it provided was unsafe and caused injury. “It doesn’t matter how
much care was taken,” says Daniel Thistle,
the lawyer representing Donovan, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Genetic tests have revealed that she inherited the disorder from her
It doesn’t take a genius to see the consequences of this suit being successful: since shutting down sperm banks is a socially unacceptable option, either there will need to be regulatory changes to protect banks from litigation or the banks will be forced to implement routine carrier testing of donors for as many potential genetic diseases as possible (indeed, I would expect this latter process to become completely routine anyway within the next few years as testing becomes cheaper and customer demand for the service intensifies).
Incidentally, the New Scientist article notes that this is yet another example of state-to-state variation in laws, so regulatory clarification is certainly in order:
Donovan was conceived in Pennsylvania, where a “blood shield law”
protects sellers of human bodily material from product liability suits.
In New York state, however, sellers are not protected by any such law.
On 31 March, federal judge Thomas O’Neill ruled that Donovan’s case
should be tried in New York.