Technology

The F.D.A. has better things to do than persecute Trent Arsenault

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanDec 21, 2011 5:55 PM

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For several days I've gotten referrals from message board discussions about the case of Trent Arsenault. Trent is a "free sperm donor" (see the link for the details). For various financial reasons he can't adhere to all the regulations which sperm banks are subject to.

I don't dismiss the concerns out of hand, but I object to the idea that this sort of project is a rational and useful allocation of regulatory time and money.

I find one section of a Reuter's piece illuminating:

Arsenault gets himself screened every six months for that entire list of diseases but cannot afford the specific FDA-approved tests he is supposed to undergo within seven days of each sperm donation, at a cost of $1,700, he said. The stringent, costly testing regimen is the main reason sperm banks charge hundreds of dollars for their services, says Sherron Mills, executive director of the Pacific Reproductive Services in San Francisco. Rates there range from $425 to $600 or more per insemination, and any woman who finds such a sum too onerous to pay is probably unable to afford routine costs associated with being a parent, Mills said. "Once you have kids, it costs every bit as much every month," she said.

Really? Is this the logic that we see in broader society? I make enough references to Idiocracy that it's obvious that I think our society needs to have a frank discussion about variation in fertility rates across the income and education range (people, especially women, who invest in human capital through education tend to delay childbearing and have fewer offspring than those who do not). But is the discussion going to start with banning the activities of someone like Trent Arsenault? The only long term solution may be the marketing of "sperm donation kits," available to consenting adults who meet each other by whatever means they choose.

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