Pregnancy From Sperm Frozen 40 Years Ago Highlights Problems With IVF

Bioethics   |   Wesley J. Smith   |   Sep 3, 2012   |   1:56PM   |   Washington, DC

Good grief: A sperm bank is bragging that it set the record of having children born with 40 year-old sperm.

From the press release, headlined “World Record Shattered:”

Late in August, twin girls were born to a couple who used in vitro fertilization (IVF) to achieve pregnancy. On the surface, this may look like just another of the increasingly common success stories for the IVF industry. But this story has its own unique twist that makes it different from every other IVF pregnancy—the sperm used to fertilize the egg was frozen over 40 years ago, shattering the existing record of 28 years for a successful live birth through cryopreserved sperm.

Then, the self interest of the donor:

In 1971, a Japanese American war hero banked his sperm with a sperm bank where Russ Bierbaum, a young pioneer in reproductive tissue cryopreservation, was the acting laboratory technician. The war hero was the “first born” of a proud Japanese family whose culture dictates the family blood line be carried on through the first born son. Shortly after learning he and his wife would never have children of their own, he discovered none of his siblings were going to be able to preserve the family blood line either. That’s when he started the journey to maintaining his heritage through a surrogate.

Having banked his sperm, he contacted a surrogate agency to find a mother for the child who would save his family’s blood line. In the years that followed, the dream faded—surrogates were hard to find and the few who were willing were unable to achieve successful pregnancies. Yet his hope remained undeterred; as a successful American businessman, he continued to put money into a trust that would one day provide for the child he remained committed to fathering. Ultimately, Family Formation Law Offices of Michelsen and Cohen were able to connect him with a couple who was seeking pregnancy through donor sperm and was eager to become part of a much greater story. In late fall of 2011, a successful pregnancy was announced, followed nearly nine months later with the birth of twin girls.

So, the parents wanted to be part of a “greater story.” This that tells us much of what is wrong with our current culture.

Worse, this amounts to unethical human experimentation. Who knows what 40 years in the deep freeze could do to the fertilizing cells, and what potential impact such long term cold storage could potentially have on the health of children? Moreover, is this any way to make children? To set records so a man can fulfill his dream of passing his genes down the generations?



But now oncologists are supposed to push the idea for their cancer patients:

This proves that a young male can effectively store semen and confidently use it 20, 30, or 40 years later to start a family,” said Bierbaum. “We’re hoping this kind of news will convince oncology professionals to be more proactive about discussing future fertility with their patients and begin the necessary steps to assure that their patients have been informed.”

I don’t think adding even more consumerist agendas to reproduction is a good thing at all. Note: Wesley J. Smith, J.D., is a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. He writes at his blog, Secondhand Smoke.