Sperm Bank Turns Down Donors With Dyslexia, Critics Cry 'Eugenics'

The London Sperm Bank, the largest clinic of its kind in the U.K., has reportedly banned men who have dyslexia and other physical conditions from donating sperm to “minimize the risk of transmitting common genetic diseases or malformations to any children born."

The Guardian obtained a flier from the sperm bank that says it screens for attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, Asperger syndrome, dyslexia and dyspraxia.

Critics say the sperm bank is practicing a form of “eugenics," and the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority has launched an investigation into the clinic.

Vanessa Smith, of the JD Healthcare group, which operates the sperm bank, told the news site: “The HFEA has been in touch with us. In response we will be reviewing all our practices and protocols.”

Smith was asked about the sperm bank referring to dyslexia as a neurological disease, and replied, "Our literature states that, but the policy is under review. There may be some genetic component to it. But we are going to review all the recent literature about it.”

According to the Daily Mail, about 10 percent of people have some form of dyslexia, which typically causes people problems when writing and/or transposing letters and numbers.

Some people with dyslexia have extraordinary skills in math, engineering and creative thought. Several famous and successful people were born with dyslexia, such as Albert Einstein, Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and TV producer Stephen J. Cannell.

“This is eugenics," Steve O’Brien, chair of the Dyslexia Foundation and a board member of the International Dyslexia Association, told The Guardian.

"It’s trying to say that dyslexics shouldn’t be in society," O’Brien added. "But we’re moving into a visually dominated world of Instagram and YouTube where given the right tools it is no longer an issue, because people with dyslexia are right-brained often with hyper-visual skills."

Smith countered: “We definitely don’t work in eugenics. When we recruit a donor what we are looking for is good sperm that is going to freeze well and will produce a pregnancy afterwards. We are looking for someone who is medically clear of infectious diseases and genetic issues that may possibly be passed on to any resulting child. But we are also looking for a guy who is coming forward for the right reasons who understands the lifelong commitment to this.”

Sources: The Guardian, Daily Mail / Photo credit: ScienceGenetics/Wikimedia

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