A fertility company is being sued for spreading false information about its donors. Xytex, which provides couples with sperm in order to have children, sold dozens of families on one particularly impressive donor. An online profile claimed the man was a PhD student with a genius IQ, great mental health, a Bachelor’s Degree in Neuroscience, and a Master’s Degree in Artificial Intelligence. It turns out, Chris Aggeles, the donor in question, is actually a convicted criminal with a history of severe mental illness, including psychotic episodes, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
One Couple’s Story
The lie was uncovered when Xytex mistakenly included Aggeles’ name in an email to customers. Mothers did some basic research on Google and quickly realized the truth. It seems suspicious that families could uncover the truth about the donor so quickly, while Xytex missed the issue in its screening process. 26 families have used sperm from this donor, resulting in 36 children.
In an interview with the Toronto Star, one Canadian mother, Angie Collins, shared how she and her partner reacted when they heard the news:
“It was like a dream turned nightmare in an instant,” she said.
Collins learned about the donor when another mother shared the news with her via an online community. Collins had wanted children her entire life, and she and her partner, Beth Hansen, spent months researching possibilities. Because of strict regulations on sperm donors in Canada, the couple turned to U.S-based companies. They eventually found Xytex, and were impressed with Chris Aggeles’s profile. Collins says that she was drawn to Xytex’s claims of only choosing the most responsible and healthy donors.
A Fight For Justice
The couple is one of many looking to take legal action against Xytex for allowing this to happen and potentially playing a role in defrauding its customers. This is her second attempt to seek justice since she first learned the truth.
Nancy Herst, a well-known lawyer and women’s health advocate in San Francisco, is also joining the fight. She has praised Collins’ battle, and called her “the Erin Brockovich of the Sperm-Bank set.”
Herst is aiming to file an additional suit against Xytex based on their wrongdoings towards mothers in the United States and Britain. Both women are looking to create more transparency for mothers and couples looking at alternative ways of having children. More accountability could let parents know what to expect regarding their children’s mental and physical health.
Meanwhile, Xytex claims that it cannot be held responsible for its donor’s actions. In a recent open letter the company insists that it does screen donors, but it relies on an honor system. This would be questionable enough even if the company did not advertise the exact opposite. Collins mentions that when she expressed concerns about the donor’s honesty a representative assured her:
“We do all of our own internal testing to the degree that you will know more about your donor than your own partner.”
If that is not a claim of responsibility, it is difficult to know what would be, especially given that families with limited resources were able to uncover the donor’s past armed with nothing but a name and Google Search. Is it so much to ask that professionals at an international corporation apply at least this much scrutiny?