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Mother takes legal action against sperm bank for her child's dwarfism

4 November 2019
Appeared in BioNews 1022

A woman has taken a sperm bank to court after giving birth to a child with dwarfism despite choosing a six-foot-tall donor on its website, according to Russian reports.

The woman, who has not been named, was in her 40s and believed this was her last chance to have a child. She chose a father for her baby from pictures of candidates on the website of Danish sperm bank Cryos International. She underwent successful IVF treatment at a private clinic in Moscow, Russia, after paying for donor sperm. 

After looking at scans in the later part of the pregnancy, doctors suspected the baby had achondroplasia – a bone growth disorder that causes dwarfism. The child's condition was confirmed after birth, with medical professionals telling the woman her son, who is now two years old, would grow to a maximum height of four feet in adulthood. 

Around one in 25,000 people are born with achondroplasia, which mainly affects the growth of the upper arms and thighs, but can also be associated with other health difficulties.

According to Russian reports, the woman chose the donor because of his fair-haired looks, educational background, and his height of over six feet, and expected her child to inherit similar traits.

Achondroplasia is an autosomal dominant genetic condition, meaning that if the sperm donor carried the variant, he would also be affected. However, fewer than 20 percent of cases of achondroplasia are hereditary: the majority are spontaneous, caused by a de novo gene mutation prior to conception or in early embryo development. Mutations of this kind cannot be predicted and can happen in either the mother or father's genetic material.

The woman said she wanted to warn other sperm bank customers of the risk, and Moscow's Koptevsky District Court ordered the blocking of Cryos' website in Russia, ruling that using its services would flout Russian laws.

When questioned, the sperm bank said it screens donors for 46 of the most common recessive genetic diseases.  

However, Roszdravnadzor, Russia's federal body responsible for the control and supervision of healthcare, said it was not satisfied with case details handed over by the sperm bank. These included a 'medical genetic examination' of the donor, analysis of his 'mental and physical condition', and a family tree.

'Cryos is aware of the complaint filed by the Federal Service for Supervision of Healthcare of the Ministry of Health of Russia. We are currently collecting and examining the information and facts of the case,' the sperm bank said in a statement to BioNews.   

They also told Moskovskij Komsomolets newspaper that they 'are not responsible for the mistakes of the clinics' carrying out IVF treatment.

MAMA Clinic, where the IVF was performed, did not comment.

Mum suing sperm bank after picking 6ft tall donor but giving birth to dwarf
Unilad |  31 October 2019
Russian mother takes legal action after giving birth to a boy with 'dwarfism'
Daily Mail |  31 October 2019
Sperm bank taken to court after mum who picked '6ft donor' gives birth to dwarf
The Mirror |  31 October 2019
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