A man who fathered 15 children after advertising his sperm on social media never told the mothers he has an inheritable condition that causes learning disabilities.
James MacDougall, a 37-year-old man, placed an advert in the newspaper promoting his services as a sperm donor directly to lesbian couples. He would reportedly not have been allowed to donate his sperm in a clinic due to his genetic condition, according to the Guardian.
In spite of his sperm being used by many lesbian couples, MacDougall did not disclose to them that he has the fragile-X syndrome, a genetic condition that causes developmental problems in children and which can be passed down to future generations, BBC News reported.
Three women who received MacDougall’s sperm have opposed allowing him any contact with their children, with many saying that MacDougall had deceived them regarding his condition and that he continued to try and contact the children in spite of signing contracts not to do so.
He would have been paid for his services, but the mothers are currently suing him in court.
His sperm produced over 15 children, some of which he is attempting to get some parental responsibility for. He has largely been barred from contacting the children his sperm produced by their families.
“Although the agreement does refer to fragile-X, [MacDougall] took no steps to explain the condition to [the women] and no steps to ensure they understood. [He] took advantage of these young women’s vulnerability and their strong desire to have children,” Justice Lieven from Deby, UK said in her ruling.
A judge allowed him to be identified to protect other people planning to use private sperm donors. At the hearing, the judge said that the normal approach in family courts was to “anonymize” parents so the identity of children was protected. However, she added that there were “strong grounds” for naming MacDougall to stop other women from using him as a sperm donor.
As per the BBC, the court noted that MacDougall met with his first child between October 2019 and March 2020, despite signing an agreement prior to donating sperm that he would not have contact with. However, the judge said that the three-page document was in highly legalistic language which would have been “difficult to read even for a lawyer”.
The mothers should be able to make the decision about whether or not MacDougall is a part of their children’s lives, and the judge made the right decision in ruling that he does not have any parental rights over them. It is hoped that this case will set a precedent for future cases involving sperm donors and their rights.