Law

Sperm donor with incurable genetic condition fathered 15 children to lesbian mothers

Emily Chudy May 31, 2022
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Sperm donor with incurable condition fathered 15 children to lesbian mothers

Sperm donor with incurable condition fathered 15 children to lesbian mothers (Getty Images)

A sperm donor who fathered 15 children to lesbian mothers went ahead with donations despite knowing that he had an incurable genetic condition.

According to the Guardian, 37-year-old James MacDougall went ahead with donations despite knowing he has Fragile X syndrome, which causes developmental problems including learning difficulties.

A court decided on Tuesday (31 May) that MacDougall should be banned from contacting four of the children he fathered after he applied to the court for parental responsibility for or contact with them.

Justice Lieven, a family court judge, also took the step of naming MacDougall publicly so that people would be aware of him when looking for a sperm donor, adding that he “took advantage of these young women’s vulnerability and their strong desire to have children”.

The court heard that MacDougall placed a sperm donor advert on a social media page for lesbians seeking donors; due to his Fragile X syndrome, he would not have been approved to donate at an official sperm bank. MacDougall claimed to have fathered 15 children as a result of this, all aged between three and a few months old.

The sperm donor alleged that he had mentioned having Fragile X syndrome in a legal agreement signed by the mothers, however the judge claimed that the agreement was a “closely spaced three-page document in highly legalistic language which is difficult to read even for a lawyer”, which did not communicate the significance of the disease clearly.

Justice Lieven said: “Although the agreement does refer to Fragile X, [MacDougall] took no steps to explain the condition to [the mothers] and no steps to ensure they understood.

“This failure to take responsibility for his own condition and to have any apparent concern for the long-term impact both on the mothers and potentially the children, is a factor in concluding that [he] should not be given parental responsibility for the children.”

The judge refused MacDougall’s application for parental responsibility and contact with the children, adding that he should be publicly named as “I have no confidence that he will not act as a sperm donor in the future”.

She added: “I equally have no confidence in him fully explaining to any woman the true implications of his Fragile X syndrome. There is therefore a very specific benefit in him being named in the hope that women will look him up on the internet and see this judgment.”

In 2020, a sperm donor who insisted same-sex couples should not raise children conceived with his sperm won a lawsuit against a fertility clinic that used his donations for queer families.

Neil Gaskell, 49, began donating sperm at CARE Fertility Clinic in Manchester in 2010, insisting on his consent form that he didn’t want any of his donations to go to same-sex couples or single mothers

Gaskell told The Mail on Sunday: “I accept that some people will find this uncomfortable and that people might think I’m homophobic, or against the idea of single mothers.

“But that couldn’t be further from the truth. This wasn’t about discriminating against same-sex couples, it wasn’t for religious reasons and I don’t accept that it’s bigotry.

“But you can’t argue with biology. It takes a man and a woman to create a child, and it’s my view that if children are being born with my sperm they must have a mother and a father.”

The legal battle culminated in Gaskell winning his case, and being awarded a five-figure settlement.

More: IVF, sperm donor

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