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Sperm donor told to halt production by US regulator

12 December 2011
Appeared in BioNews 637

A man in the United States is reportedly being investigated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after offering his sperm for donation. Mr Trent Arsenault, a 36 year-old computer security expert from California, has set up a website offering his sperm without charge to anyone who wishes to use it to have a baby.


The FDA wrote to Arsenault in 2010, ordering him to 'cease manufacturing'. Although Arsenault says he is not a 'business', the letter states his service counts as 'a firm or establishment... that recovers and distributes semen, and therefore is a manufacturer of human cells', and as such, comes under the FDA's jurisdiction.


Arsenault's website explains his background, ethnicity, personal hobbies and medical reports with his sperm count. It also contains copies of tests for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). An FDA inspection did not, however, find sufficient evidence that he was following legally required procedures to prevent the spread of certain STDs.


In its letter to Arsenault, the FDA said: 'Because of your failure to provide adequate protections against the risks of communicable disease transmission... you must cease manufacturing until compliance with the regulations... has been achieved'.


FDA investigators estimated that Arsenault made 328 sperm donations to 46 recipients between 2006 and 2010. His website displays photos of fourteen children whom he has helped father since his first donation to a school teacher in 2004, and he says that he has received over 20,000 email inquiries. Low income or same-sex couples who often face problems applying to licensed sperm banks are particularly keen to use his service, he says.


Arsenault disputes the FDA's claims. 'The semen is provided fresh (unfrozen) and is transferred immediately to the recipient', he said. 'Health of the mother and child is my utmost concern'. Arsenault says he does not believe his one-man operation comes under the FDA's rules regarding commercial operations and is continuing to donate sperm until the case against him proceeds to a formal hearing, reports CBS San Francisco.


Two women are currently pregnant with children conceived with his sperm. 'It is helping people in need', said Arsenault. 'I don’t make any money, I don't charge people anything. And it's just helping childless couples have children'.


A 'known donor agreement' posted on Arsenault's website stipulates that a recipient relinquishes any rights they may have against the donor to hold him 'legally, financially, or emotionally responsible' for any resulting children. The agreement states the donor shall have no paternal rights with any resulting children and would not demand custody or visitation rights.


The online version of the agreement contains an 'STD Re-Testing Waiver' which clarifies the 'donor' is a 'sexually intimate partner', under the regulations, for whom it says re-testing is not required. Recipients of the sperm are asked to hand the waiver to Arsenault at the first donation pick-up.


The FDA regulates human reproductive tissue including donated eggs and sperm. Its website states any establishment that performs one or more manufacturing steps for the recovery, processing, storage, labelling, packaging or distribution of human cells or tissue, must register with FDA. Sperm banks in California and regulated both by the FDA and state department of health.

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FDA Decides Fremont Man Is A Sperm Factory
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Local Man Fails to Excite FDA With Sperm Donations
NBC Bay Area |  8 December 2011
Online sperm donor Trent Arsenault faces legal challenge from FDA
New York Daily News |  12 December 2011
Order to Cease Manufacturing of HCT/Ps - Trent Arsenault
US Food and Drug Administration |  1 November 2010
22 October 2012 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
A celebrity sperm donor service called Fame Daddy that was profiled in news reports in the British media has been revealed as a hoax...
16 July 2012 - by Ruth Retassie 
A Californian woman is suing the US Food and Drug Administration over its sperm donation policy...
8 May 2012 - by Daniel Malynn 
This short film provides an overview of the law surrounding known donor agreements and evokes some interesting conclusions. As part of a sociological research project entitled 'Relative Strangers' at the University of Manchester, Professor Carol Smart examines the courts' approach to known donation...
23 April 2012 - by Rosemary Paxman 
Ed Houben, a 42-year-old Dutch man has fathered at least 82 children by private sperm donation, mostly by having sex with his clients, news sources report...
16 April 2012 - by Dr Rosie Morley 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has launched a new strategy to increase awareness of egg and sperm donation and to improve the care of donors. It aims to address perceived obstacles to donor recruitment aired during its consultation on gamete donation last year....
31 October 2011 - by Andrew Proven Donor 
A shortfall in donated sperm, we are told, has pushed potential recipients onto websites where private sperm donors hawk their reproductive wares. If only the officially sanctioned sperm banks were well stocked, the thinking goes, women would not have to venture into that murky world. But is that correct? What if sperm donation outside the official channels actually carried certain advantages over the clinic system...
17 October 2011 - by Dr Zara Mahmoud 
Increasing numbers of women under the age of 25 are turning to sperm donors online, an investigation by the Sunday Times has shown. Many of these women have stable jobs and good support networks, and see no reason to wait before starting a family...
13 September 2010 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
Two men in the UK have been prosecuted for allegedly offering sperm for sale over the internet, according to BBC News. Ricky Gage, 49, and Nigel Woodforth, 42, both from Reading, are facing two charges brought under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 for operating a website known as Fertility 1st without a licence...
25 January 2010 - by Dr Vivienne Raper 
Websites have sprung up offering fresh sperm delivered to your door for DIY insemination by UK women, according to an article in The Obstetrician and Gynaecologist (TOG). UK sperm donor shortages are blamed for creating a market for these 'e-semination' services, which have unclear legal status and are not covered by Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) regulations....
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