Often writing for this site, I am reminded of the fantastically apt Jeff Goldblum line from “Jurassic Park”: “YEAH, BUT YOUR SCIENTISTS WERE SO PREOCCUPIED WITH WHETHER OR NOT THEY COULD THAT THEY DIDN’T STOP TO THINK IF THEY SHOULD.” Amen.
Right out front, let me cheerfully admit that I don’t like much of what is purveyed as reproductive technology now. I don’t think doctors have any business stimulating the hell out of follicles to in order to satisfy a couple’s biologic narcissism. Jars full of discarded embryos are – charitably – ethically problematic, and iatrogenic multiparous deliveries don’t seem like a risk that should be electively sought. Combine this fiddling with the charms of the welfare state, and …well, let’s just call that a whole ‘nother stack of problem ethics. If your feelings are hurt by these views, then try not to take it personally, and take comfort knowing that I am in a small if irritated minority. Good Morning America, The View, et al, and a large repro-industry will cooperate to keep the mills going well into the catalog availability of designer genetics.
But for now, it’s fun to laugh at the examples of this stuff gone wrong. An Oregon medical student, Bryce Cleary, and his classmates at Oregon Health and Science University all donated some starter fluid “after the hospital’s fertility clinic encouraged him and his male classmates to participate in a research program by donating their sperm.” One of Cleary’s progeny said in a press conference, “It feels like OHSU really didn’t take into consideration the fact that they were creating humans. They were reckless with this and it feels like it was just numbers and money to them.”
Cleary was promised as a student-donor that he would only be contributing to creating five new humans, and that they would all be born on the East Coast. I don’t know anything about the admission standards at OHSU in 1989, but could their students have really been this dumb? Even students then should have known the population potential in a vial from a young, healthy subject, and how exactly could the university guarantee the subsequent moving and settlement plans of recipients?
Enter Ancestry.com, from whence some of these now-adult children found out about Dr. Daddy, and through which Cleary then found out he had up to 17 kids, most of who were living on the West Coast. Now that Cleary has learned that he was make a fool of, it’s time for more lawyers and $5.25 million lawsuit alleging that he is the victim for fraud and emotional distress. Hilariously, the lawsuit says: “Most, if not all, of the 17 were born in Oregon, and some of the children went to the same schools, church or social functions as their half-siblings without knowing they were related.”
Cleary: “I wanted to help people struggling with infertility, and I had faith that OHSU would act in a responsible manner and honor their promises. Recently I became painfully aware that these promises were a lie.” Cry me a river.
Was the university reckless, if not downright fraudulent? Of course it was. Were Cleary and his buddies ridiculous for participating in such numbskullery? How exactly will damages be quantified, and then proven? Are some progeny considering putting the bite on Dr. Daddy down the road for his potential winnings? What will the legal implications be if one of at-home kids stumbles into relations with a half-sibling? Such exciting questions, and none of them should concern of real physicians. Dumb graduate students should stick to the tried-and-true reproductive approaches of whatever is the current version of a Barry White album and some cheap wine, and stay the hell out of the test labs.