When a "genius" sperm donor is anything but

Plaintiffs from Florida and Canada have filed suit against a Georgia sperm bank after learning that the donor they used in their successful pregnancies had a criminal record. The suits say the donor, James Christian Aggeles, had a history of mental illness and had falsely claimed to be a neuroscientist with a genius-level IQ.

In the Florida case recently filed against the sperm bank, Xytex, a woman from Hillsborough County, whose identity wasn't disclosed, is alleging fraud, negligence, liability and the intentional infliction of emotional distress among other things, according to The Tampa Bay Times.

In one of the Canadian cases, the Vancouver Sun noted that a couple used Aggeles' sperm to conceive both of their children. They learned the identity of their donor only after they were accidentally copied on an email Xytex sent to other customers who used his sperm. A woman from Vancouver alleged in a separate lawsuit that she chose Aggeles' sperm based on the same misrepresentations.

According to all the plaintiffs, Aggeles holds no college degrees and has been diagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses including schizophrenia, which they're concerned their children may be genetically predisposed to get. They're seeking millions in damages because "significant medical monitoring" will be required. The Canadian lawsuit disclosed that one child who's part of the case has "significant" mood disorders, the Sun said.

Xytex beat a similar lawsuit last year after a judge in Georgia ruled that the plaintiffs were prevented from suing for "wrongful birth," though they made no such claim. The company has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. A spokeswoman didn't respond to requests for comment for this story.

"We followed thorough procedures to review the health of the donor," Xytex said in response to the earlier case. "As you may know, this vetting process eliminates 99% of the potential donors who apply to Xytex. In this case, the donor underwent a standard medical exam and provided extensive personal and health information. He reported a good health history and stated in his application that he had no physical or medical impairments."

Moreover, Aggeles also provided the company with copies of his graduate and undergraduate degrees. Xytex passed the information to its client with the warning it hadn't independently verified all the information that he had provided. It wasn't clear what "degrees" Aggeles gave the company.

The Food and Drug Administration has no specific regulations for clinic operators to verify the biographical information that a sperm donor provides, but they are required to screen for communicable diseases such as HIV, hepatitis and others. How Aggeles' psychological issues went undetected isn't clear.

FDA regulations regarding the collection of "reproductive tissue" require clinics to review a donor's medical history to check "relevant social behavior." The recommendations of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine go further, and urge donors receive "psychological evaluation and counselling by a qualified mental health professional." That assessment should include a clinical interview and, where relevant, psychological testing.

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    Jonathan Berr is an award-winning journalist and podcaster based in New Jersey whose main focus is on business and economic issues.