TORONTO -- Three Ontario families have launched lawsuits against a U.S.-based sperm bank and its Canadian distributor, alleging they were misled about their sperm donor's medical and social history, which included a criminal record and significant mental illness.
The families -- all of whom used the same donor -- have brought three separate suits against Georgia-based Xytex Corp and Ontario-based Outreach Health Services over the sperm of Donor 9623, who they allege was promoted as a highly educated, healthy and popular donor.
Statements of claim filed in a Newmarket, Ont., court this week allege the donor had in fact been diagnosed with schizophrenia and narcissistic personality disorder, had spent time behind bars for a residential burglary and did not have the degrees he claimed to obtain.
The documents allege Xytex failed to properly investigate the donor's education claims and his medical history, and misrepresented him to customers, including suggesting he had the IQ level of a genius.
"The claims allege Xytex continued to sell the sperm even after it knew the truth about the donor's health, his education and his criminal past,'' said lawyer James Fireman, who represents the three families. "This kind of specific facts scenario is pretty novel.''
The donor is believed to have fathered at least 36 children, the lawsuits allege.
"The claims allege Xytex continued to sell the sperm even after it knew the truth about the donor's health, his education and his criminal past."
A lawyer for Xytex, however, said the company looks forward to "successfully defending itself'' and noted that one of the families involved had already filed a similar lawsuit against the company in the U.S., which had been dismissed.
"Pursuing claims in a court of law requires actual evidence and proof. Making unfounded allegations in the court of public opinion requires no actual proof at all, but merely the word of the very lawyers and litigants who already failed in a court of law,'' Ted Lavender told The Canadian Press.
"Xytex is an industry leader and complies with all industry standards in how they safely and carefully help provide the gift of children to families who are otherwise unable have them without this assistance.''
Outreach Health Services was not immediately available for comment.
The donor is believed to have fathered at least 36 children.
The allegations in the lawsuits, which involve families from Port Hope, Ont., Ottawa and Haileybury, Ont., have not been proven in court.
The Port Hope couple -- Angela Collins and Margaret Elizabeth Hanson -- had filed a lawsuit against Xytex, its parent company, sperm bank employees and the donor last year.
The case was dismissed by a judge who said that while the lawsuit claimed fraud, negligence and product liability, it is "rooted in the concept of wrongful birth,'' which isn't recognized under Georgia law.
The couple is the only one named in the latest trio of lawsuits filed in Ontario.
Their statement of claim says the donor, James Christian Aggeles, by his own admission, lied about his mental health history and his education -- which included a claim about working towards a PhD in neuroscience engineering -- when he filled out a Xytex questionnaire, but was never questioned by anyone at Xytex.
"Instead of conducting an actual investigation into the claims made by Aggeles, Xytex promoted Donor [#9623] as one of their best donors,'' the document said. "Xytex promoted Aggeles as a man of high integrity who was extremely intelligent and incredibly educated.''
Xytex continued to try and sell Aggeles' sperm even after his arrest history and mental illness came to light, the statement of claim alleges.
"The Xytex Corporation has admitted no wrongdoing, it has done absolutely nothing to warn affected parents that schizophrenia may develop in their children,'' it said.
The families are each seeking millions in damages.
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4. Most women with blocked fallopian tubes are completely unaware they may have had a prior pelvic infection. About 10 percent of infertility cases are due to tubal disease, either complete blockage or pelvic scarring causing tubal malfunction. One major cause of tubal disease is a prior pelvic infection from a sexually transmitted disease such as chlamydia. These infections can cause so few symptoms that you may be completely unaware your tubes are affected. This is why fertility physicians will order a dye test of the tubes, called a hysterosalpingogram (HSG), if you have been trying and failing to conceive for 6 months or longer.
5. In most cases, stress does not cause infertility. Except in rare cases of extreme physical or emotional distress, women will keep ovulating regularly. Conceiving while on vacation is likely less about relaxation than about coincidence and good timing of sex.
6. By age 44, most women are infertile, even if they are still ovulating regularly. Even with significant fertility treatment, rates of conception are very low after age 43. Most women who conceive in their mid-40's with fertility treatment are using donated eggs from younger women.
7. Having fathered a pregnancy in the past does not guarantee fertility. Sperm counts can change quite a bit with time, so never assume that a prior pregnancy guarantees fertile sperm. Obtaining a semen analysis is the only way to be sure the sperm are still healthy!
8. For the most part, diet has little or nothing to do with fertility. Despite popular press, there is little scientific data showing that a particular diet or food promotes fertility. One limited study did suggest a Mediterranean diet with olive oil, fish and legumes may help promote fertility.
9. Vitamin D may improve results of fertility treatments. A recent study from the University of Southern California suggested that women who were undergoing fertility treatments, but had low vitamin D levels, might have lower rates of conception. This vitamin is also essential during pregnancy. At Pacific Fertility Center, we recommend our patients take 2,000-4,000 IU per day.
10. Being either underweight or overweight is clearly linked with lowered levels of fertility. The evidence in recent years is that obesity is clearly linked with a longer time to conception. Having a body mass index less than 18 or over 32 is associated with problems ovulating and conceiving, as well as problems during pregnancy.