Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Books...

I'm pleased to announce that my new book Fire At the End of the Rainbow, a collection of short autobiographical stories, essays and fantasies is now available from amazon:

and from Sand Paper Press:

Also available: Poetry by Stuart Krimko The Sweetness of Herbert and Arlo Haskell Joker. The three of us will be reading in Key West, New York and Los Angeles at the beginning of the new year. Will keep you posted on dates.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

2007 Virginia Bill Prohibiting Donor Anonymity Fails 6-1

An interesting Washington Post article about the only state bill to attempt to outlaw donor anonymity (the comments in caps are mine):

RICHMOND -- A Republican lawmaker is sponsoring General Assembly legislation that would make Virginia the first state to prohibit anonymous sperm donations.

Delegate Robert G. Marshall, a Christian conservative from Prince William County, is sponsoring the House bill.

Mr. Marshall also is the General Assembly's foremost author of legislation to curb abortion and regulate birth-control methods. He said he filed the bill to protect donor-conceived children and that he feels for those who don't know the identity of their father.

Mr. Marshall said he recently saw a child wearing a T-shirt with the words: "My dad's name is Donor," then thought, "That's pathetic."

Australia and a few European countries [U.K., NORWAY, SWEDEN AND AUSTRIA] have banned anonymous sperm donations. In each country, donations have dwindled and the cost of fertility services has increased.[THIS IS ARGUABLE. SEE MY POST: FOR LINKS TO ARTICLES DISPROVING THIS POINT IN THE U.K. AND SWEDISH MARKETS].

Opponents warn about the same result in Virginia.

Katrina Clark grew up knowing only that her father was tall, blond and a third-year college student somewhere in Northern Virginia when he donated sperm.

Miss Clark, now 18 and a Gallaudet University student, is trying to persuade lawmakers to support legislation banning anonymous sperm and egg donations, so others won't grow up with the same questions she had.

"I just felt like something had been stripped away from me," she said.

Mr. Marshall's bill also would require women donating eggs to sign a disclosure detailing all known risks involved, whether from ovulation-stimulation drugs or harvesting the egg. Virginia law already requires that patients be told about the success rates and donor health before being treated.

More than 15,000 successful egg donations in the United States in 2004 resulted in about 6,000 births, according to the latest data available. Sperm donations and births resulting from them are much more numerous and much more difficult to track. No trade groups, medical associations or government agencies track either the donations or the number of births attributed to donor sperm.

The industry wasn't fully commercialized until the 1970s, and laws regulating it focus on testing, storing and administering the donations. Only recently has the discussion turned to the ethical repercussions.

Miss Clark's mother, Janie Price, of Newport News, was 30 and single but didn't want to wait any longer for a child when in 1988 she opted for artificial insemination.

"I talked myself into believing that if I loved her enough, it would be OK," she said. "What I didn't consider is that one's genetic component is very much a part of her identity. Why else would we spend so much money as adults researching our genealogy?"

Miss Clark said she grew up not thinking she was any different from her friends. That changed when she was 15 and saw a show about a woman who died of a genetic heart disease that she had no idea she was at risk of developing because she had been adopted.

"That's when it really hit me for the first time that something was missing," she said.

Miss Clark said she started the search for her father because she wanted answers about her medical past, not because she wanted a father figure.

She was one of the few lucky ones, finding her father on an online message board weeks later. After a few weeks of telephone and e-mail conversations, a DNA test confirmed what they already knew: It was 99.9902 percent positive that he was her father.

Most sperm banks across the country now give donors the option of allowing their identities to be revealed to offspring once they turn 18.

William Jaeger, director of Fairfax Cyrobank, said that only 29 of the bank's 265 donors have agreed to have their identities revealed, which shows the chilling effect a mandatory-identity requirement would have on the industry.

"Legislation of this type would really create a hardship for families who need donor sperm to conceive a child," Mr. Jaeger said.

He also said sperm supplies have decreased so much in Britain since it passed such a law in April that some clinics have closed and others must import sperm.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine also opposes the legislation, saying it would increase the cost for families to get help conceiving.

"It is [now] relatively inexpensive to conceive through insemination of donor sperm," said Dr. Robert Brzyski, chairman of the ethics committee for the group, in Birmingham, Ala. "If donors become scarce because the anonymity is removed, then the cost of that will increase."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sperm Banks Can Be Sued Under Product Liability Laws

In April, 2009, a New York Federal judge ruled that sperm banks can be sued under product liability laws for failing to detect a sperm donor's genetic defect. The case clears the way for a 13 year-old retarded girl from PA. to sue New York-based IDANT[1] for using sperm with a mutation known as “Fragile X”[2] which caused her to be born mentally retarded.

So, if human sperm is officially a product, what does that make the child born via donor insemination? In the future, will parents be able to return their children to the cryo bank if the child fails to meet their specifications, like, if the child’s not blonde enough or not proficient enough with the violin? When is that going to start happening?

In the absence of any significant federal or state regulation of the Cryo banking industry the threat of product liability lawsuit is a very good thing. But, consider this: this isn’t exactly like a consumer being sold a faulty product, who is injured and then seeks a claim; this is the faulty product itself suing the company that made it (in this case, a her). I don’t think this has happened before. Ever. Imagine a single Toyota Prius suing Toyota for assembling its breaks incorrectly!

[1] Owned by the DAXOR CORPORATION. You’ve really got to see their website: All it needs is some ‘80s David Cronenberg-esque analogue synthesizer and they're all set. No but seriously. Who would buy human semen from a company called IDANT who proudly proclaims: owned by the DAXOR CORPORATION? Also, DAXOR agents are now hunting me.

[2] No, I’m not making this up.

Food and Drug Administration Regulates Sale of Semen

In 2005, the FDA began regulating the sale of semen within the United States (though regulating might be too strong a word - they basically institutionalized practices that had already become the norm within the cryo banking community). Cryo banks that don't comply with FDA regulations don't risk being shut down but are not allowed to say they're FDA approved, which in the highly competitive sperm-banking business, might mean losing a leg-up to a competitor.

This is relevant to all things donor insemination, of course, because as mild as the FDA's regulations might be, it's one of the few regulatory gestures made by the Federal government towards the medically assisted reproductive industry. For the most part, Federal and state governments have wanted to steer clear of any kind of regulation, intentionally leaving the details of the baby-making business in the (no doubt, benevolent) hands of the free market.

Here's the FDA's statement:

Human cells or tissue intended for implantation, transplantation, infusion, or transfer into a human recipient is regulated as a human cell, tissue, and cellular and tissue-based product or HCT/P. The Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) regulates HCT/Ps under 21 CFR Parts 1270 and 1271. Examples of such tissues are bone, skin, corneas, ligaments, tendons, dura mater, heart valves, hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells derived from peripheral and cord blood, oocytes and semen. CBER does not regulate the transplantation of vascularized human organ transplants such as kidney, liver, heart, lung or pancreas. The Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) oversees the transplantation of vascularized human organs.

Parts 1270 and 1271 require tissue establishments to screen and test donors, to prepare and follow written procedures for the prevention of the spread of communicable disease, and to maintain records. FDA has published three final rules to broaden the scope of products subject to regulation and to include more comprehensive requirements to prevent the introduction, transmission and spread of communicable disease. One final rule requires firms to register and list their HCT/Ps with FDA. The second rule requires tissue establishments to evaluate donors, through screening and testing, to reduce the transmission of infectious diseases through tissue transplantation. The third final rule establishes current good tissue practices for HCT/Ps. FDA's revised regulations are contained in Part 1271 and apply to tissues recovered after May 25, 2005. The new requirements are intended to improve protection of the public health while minimizing regulatory burden.

Fertile Markets

Here's a fun little precis I found online when I googled: international human semen trade. This guy really knocked himself out with all the double-entendres. Wouldn't you? Enjoy:

Not all trade barriers concern steel, corn and coffee. Major human semen exporters like the United States say they are having a hard time penetrating Mexico's sperm market. Human semen trade is an estimated US$100 million industry worldwide, but Mexico is abstaining from entering the market and using its own internal resources. Mexico has not banned the imports outright; however, strict federal standards and restrictions keep foreign semen out of the country. The Fertility Institutes, a semen supplier with offices in both the United States and Mexico, has been unable to swap semen across the border among its clinics. "Not because of a lack of need or desire, but because of the inability to meet all requirements of both countries, as well as FedEx and other international shippers," says Fertility Institutes' Jeffrey Steinberg. Meanwhile, strong demand in Canada for human semen on recent years--which sells for about the same price as cattle semen in the open market--eased border restrictions for sperm imports from the United States. Leading U.S. semen trader Xytex has shipped its U.S. genes to Canada and several countries in Europe since 1983, but the company says getting across its southern border poses a much bigger challenge. "It's virtually impossible," says Holly Fowler, spokesperson for Xytex. Foreign exporters trying to ship their specimen into Mexico apparently must overcome the country's main barrier to entry into the sperm market: national pride.