By Jennifer Lahl, CBC National Director

Newsweek recently reported a story about a 51-year-old man, who between 1980 and 1994 donated his sperm twice a week in order to make cash for medical school and to nurture his altruistic desires to help infertile women. Kirk Maxey states, “I loved having kids, and to have these women doomed to wandering around with no family didn’t seem right, and it’s easy to come up with a semen donation.”

Don’t get me started.

By his own estimates, this do-gooder, go-to stud figures he’s got 400 children in the U.S. But now, some 15 years later, Maxey’s conscience is catching up with him. He’s seeking to right his wrongs by making his genome publicly available to the Harvard Personal Genome Project, in order for his offspring and their mothers to have access to his genetic information. Of course, he’s also blaming the unregulated sperm scattering seed industry for not keeping track of the number of children produced by each donor, and not doing genetic screening and testing to make sure donors and subsequent children are healthy.

Maxey’s story illustrates so many of the fertility industry’s dark and shady issues:

  1. Maxey, an educated medical student, admits to not giving much thought to his actions. So much for being a bright medical student. Just because you are smart, doesn’t make you wise.
  2. The sperm donation is referred to as “volunteering.” This isn’t the army, the local library or a soup kitchen. For his volunteerism and donating spirit, Maxey pocketed a steady stream of cash totaling some $29,000.
  3. Twice a week for 14 years, he “locked himself in a room with a cup and a sexy magazine” at the suggestion of his first wife, a nurse at the fertility clinic. They are no longer married. One has to wonder the impact of regular indulgences with “sexy magazines,” and the negative impact on a marriage.
  4. 400 children don’t know their father. And if they find him, what kind of relationship is Maxey expecting? What sort of parent relationship is he willing to develop with 400 children? That is a lot of college education, weddings and birthdays to provide for.
  5. Notice that only after the damage is done, has he experienced his great-awakening. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, IVF is one of the greatest social experiments of our time, with so many casually — scratch that . . . recklessly — pursuing reproductive technology as the solution to infertility. How many lives need to be ruined or destroyed for us to wake up? Maxey is just one of thousands of sperm and egg donors who’ve contributed to this colossal baby-making enterprise.

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou depicts Ulysses Everett McGill (played by George Clooney), a man who desperately wants to reconcile with his estranged wife and be reunited with his children. His wife has plans to remarry to a gentleman whom she claims is bona fide. Even McGill’s little daughter accuses her father of not being bona fide, to which he exclaims, I’m the only daddy you got! I’m the paterfamilias! Maxey already has two daughters who have found him through the Donor Sibling Registry*. One has to ask, is he bona fide? Is he the paterfamilias? Or is he just another deadbeat, sperm-donor dad?

*Correction — Maxey found both of his daughters through the Donor Sibling Registry.