Moral and ethical obligations questioned in IVF laboratory worker case

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Moral and ethical obligations questioned in IVF laboratory worker case

In the headlines, this news story questions the moral fabric in our society.

It’s about a former worker at an IVF laboratory located at the University of Utah.  Somehow, he managed to get his sperm into vials where they shouldn’t have been.  This past employee, who died from alcoholism in 1999, was ex-convict Thomas Ray Lippert.

Records indicate from 1988 to 1993, Lippert was an andrology laboratory assistant at the University’s Community Laboratory.

Prior to working there, Lippert served 2 years in federal prison after pleading guilty in 1975 for the “The Love Experiment” conspiracy.  In an effort to force a college student to fall madly in love with him, he abducted her and used electroshock therapy for punishment and reward conditioning.

Yes, this is the man who was handpicked to work at the Community Laboratory – and it gets worse.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, in an article dated on April 23 by Matthew Piper, “The University of Utah has determined that ex-convict Thomas Ray Lippert was hired to work at its fertility clinic without a background check, that he was a frequent sperm donor, and that a Texas family deserves an apology for a mix-up involving Lippert’s sperm in 1991.”  The journalist goes on to say, “What the U. doesn’t say — for certain, at least — is that the switch was deliberate.”

The family the Salt Lake Tribune is referring to is John and Pamela Branum.  This couple thinks Lippert deliberately switched John’s intended sperm with his own to impregnate Pamela.  The couple only realized that their daughter, Annie, did not match her father’s DNA after the family purchased a take-home test in October 2012.

The Branums’ compared Annie’s DNA against a sample from Lippert’s 99-year-old mother, the reporter wrote, and there was a 25 percent match.

Another unsettling thought is the University admitting that Lippert’s sperm samples were delivered to “several dozen” clinics throughout the nation.

And there’s more.  A different family has exposed a “sperm foul-up” at the University’s Community Laboratory following a DNA test and is considering legal action.

A special review committee was established on behalf of the University which is overseeing the controversy and prepared a report.

The Salt Lake Tribune revealed the committee has instructed the University not to contact Community Lab patients within Lippet’s employment period because, “this matter is more likely to cause harm to these families than to provide benefit.”

The report highlights that Lippert had two possible genetic predispositions to any offspring: criminality and alcoholism.

And they won’t reach out to the 1,800 families that may have been affected?

Here’s where morals and ethics really come into play.  Personally speaking, the University does have a duty to inform their patients what is going on and they should provide their DNA testing.

Yes, Lippert was employed many years ago, but the fact remains that they did not screen this employee and he was a lab-approved donor.

If the University sticks with their decision not to contact these potentially affected families, they may have a potentially bigger mess on their hands by turning a blind eye to a very serious situation.