Old Laws & New Technologies: Suing Sperm Bank for Genetic Disease

Old laws don’t always fit new technologies well. Intellectual property laws, for example, have been an awkward fit with modern discoveries in genetics (hence the debate over patenting genes). Similarly, privacy laws may run aground with regard to genetic testing: genes after all are deeply private — yet always shared with members of your (biological) family.

Now here’s an example of trying to apply product safety laws to modern assisted reproductive technologies.

From the New Scientist: Sperm bank sued under product liability law

Sperm should be subject to the same product liability laws as car brakes, according to a US judge who has given a teenager with severe learning disabilities the go-ahead to sue the sperm bank that provided her with a biological father.

Brittany Donovan, now 13 years old, was born with fragile X syndrome, a genetic disorder causing mental impairment and carried on the X chromosome. She is now suing the sperm bank, Idant Laboratories of New York, under a product liability law more commonly associated with manufacturing defects, such as faulty car brakes.

Donovan does not have to show that Idant was negligent, only that the sperm it provided was unsafe and caused injury….

Here’s some extra information, from the Wall Street Journal’s health blog: Girl With Genetic Disease Sues Sperm Bank.


About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.
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