A new sperm donor lawsuit enters the courtroom

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A new sperm donor lawsuit enters the courtroom

When a woman chooses to go to a fertility clinic for a procedure, an unbridled sense of parenthood hope follows.  And if a pregnancy is achieved via an IVF procedure, the last thing any mother-to-be wants to hear is there was an insemination error.

This very scenario has prompted litigation between Jennifer Cramblett, a resident of Uniontown, Ohio, and Midwest Sperm Bank LLC, located in Downers Grove.

It’s hard to imagine that something like this could occur, but clinics and the medical world as we all know, are not immune from blunders.

Here’s the lawsuit core which is netting international attention.

Cramblett is alleging the sperm she chose was from a Caucasian male, but she found out during her pregnancy, the sperm used was from an African-American.

In the Chicago Business periodical, their reporter, Fareeha Ali writes, “Ms. Cramblett and her partner, Amanda Zinkon, are white and ‘their desire was to find a donor with genetic traits similar to them both,’” according to a complaint filed yesterday in Cook County Circuit Court.  “After Ms. Cramblett became pregnant, they found out the sperm was from an African-American donor, not the donor they requested.”

Cramblett became pregnant in December 2011.

The truth started to unravel following her communication with the sperm bank in April 2012.

With an eye to the future, Cramblett and her partner decided to have more children and wanted to use the same sperm donor.

It was that phone call which alerted her that the sperm donor used was #330, not #380, the one chosen.

“She contacted the Ohio doctor’s office, and his secretary told her she had become pregnant with sperm from donor #330. The Ohio doctor and clinic are not defendants,” Ali writes.  “The suit says Ms. Cramblett got a letter from the sperm bank the next month ‘apologizing for the mix-up’ and enclosing a refund check for six vials of incorrect sperm.”

Following the startling news, Cramblett learned more as to how the mistake allegedly occurred. Apparently, the fertility clinic kept paper records, not electronic.

The complaint continues on by saying that the vials sent on September 2011 were erroneously interpreted.  The number “380” looked like “330.”

“….and there are no redundancies to catch errors like the one the defendant made with respect to Jennifer Cramblett,” Ali reports.

In this day and age, you’d think there would be an excellent digital database and quality control for tracking sperm donor numbers.  Why didn’t this sperm bank implement a series of back-up systems to ensure that the vials chosen were the ones delivered for the IFV procedure?

The article goes on to say that following the sperm error discovery, Cramblett gave birth to her daughter, Payton, in August 2012.  Cramblett and her partner “love her very much,” Ali extracts from the complaint.

But having a biracial daughter is causing Cramblett emotional distress.

Ali continues, “Even so, Jennifer lives each day with fears, anxieties and uncertainty about her future and Payton’s future. Jennifer admits that she was raised around stereotypical attitudes about people other than those in her all-white environment. Because of this background and upbringing, Jennifer acknowledges her limited cultural competency relative to African-Americans, and steep learning curve,” the lawsuit states.

I truly believe that this statement made by Cramblett is by no means based on racism.  At least, not her own – her concerns are ones she and her daughter may face outside of the home.  And she is obviously grappling with this.

Cramblett, and her partner, Zinkon, raise an interesting issue, because while they love their child, she is biracial and now this couple has to deal with any of those hurdles which may come their way.

For me, reading about this new case naturally triggers past cases entangled in courtroom drama.

Remember, Carolyn Savage?  What a medical mistake that was via IVF in 2009.

Also from Ohio, Savage discovered during her pregnancy that she was implanted with the incorrect embryo.  After giving birth, Savage had to give the newborn back to his biological parents who lived in Michigan.

Then there is another case that comes to mind, which I believe occurred more than a decade ago.  In Europe, a couple had twins: one was Caucasian and the other, biracial.

It was revealed the embryologist didn’t clean the needle used for ICSI and sperm from the last couple, who were African American.  That’s why one twin was biracial.

As a third-party reproduction attorney, it’s interesting when I meet with parents to discuss their surrogacy contract.  If they bring up DNA testing, they are usually thinking that if the test comes back that the child isn’t theirs, it belongs to the surrogate because she had sex.  But I also tell them there could be a medical mistake, and while rare, they do happen.

While these stories pop up in courthouses, we can’t forget about the top-tier fertility clinics and sperm banks that bring joy to countless couples.