A 41-year-old sperm donor is being sued by the Donorkind Foundation, a Dutch organization which facilitates the reunion of donor children. The foundation alleges that the man — named Jonathan M. in the Dutch press — fathered at least 550 children in the Netherlands and internationally. The suit calls on the court to impose precautionary measures to stop him from fathering more children, and requests that all of his stored semen samples be destroyed, except for those reserved for women who have already had his child and want a genetic sibling.
It is the first time such a lawsuit has been presented in the Netherlands, where sperm donors are not supposed to father more than 25 offspring or impregnate more than 12 mothers. This guideline is in place to avoid unintentional incest and potential psychological problems for donor children who discover they have hundreds of siblings.
In 2017, Jonathan M. was blacklisted in the Netherlands after the Dutch Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (NVOG) warned that he had already fathered 102 children at 11 different fertility clinics. But the man continued to donate sperm overseas and via the internet.
Mark de Hek, the lawyer representing Donorkind, said his actions were illegal. “The donor prioritized his urge to reproduce and his conduct poses a threat to the mental and physical well-being of donor children,” he said in a statement, adding that agreements with the clinics and prospective parents had been broken “because they trusted his promise that he would father a maximum of 25 children.”
Fertility clinics in the Netherlands are financed through the official health insurance that all citizens must have. These clinics — which can be private or belong to public or university hospitals — pay between €10 ($10.8) and €20 ($22) for each sperm donation. They are legally obliged to record information related to egg, semen and embryo donations in a national registry, and make it available to children, parents and family doctors. Since 2004, donor children in the Netherlands can access this information once they turn 16.
The Dutch Parliament is currently studying a bill that would legally prevent one person from donating sperm to more than 12 families, both within and outside the country. The problem is that fertility clinics do not share data with each other. This lack of communication allowed Jonathan M. to make donations in dozens of clinics without raising suspicions. After he was blacklisted in 2017, he began making donations internationally via websites such as CoParent Match, Cyros, PrideAngel, Onewish, Kinderwunsch and Spendesperma, according to the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.
A mother who fathered one of Jonathan M.’s children in 2018 has also joined the lawsuit. “If I had known he had already fathered more than a hundred children, I would never have chosen this donor,” said Eve, as she is named in the foundation’s statement. “When I think about the consequences this can have for my child, I get a feeling of [the] gut and I become insecure about his future: how many more children are added? Going to court is the only way to protect my child.”
Ties van der Meer, president of Donorkind, told EL PAÍS that Jonathan M. was tracked down on the internet in 2017 after the foundation received multiple calls from worried mothers. “There were mothers from other countries in the world, so he was lying about the number of children he had when he spoke to them,” said Van der Meer by phone.
The Donorkind president pointed out that while Jonathan M. is estimated to have fathered 550 children, this does not take into account the children he may have fathered via “international clinics, internet sites and anonymous donations.” “It seems unethical to us that the anonymity of the donor is maintained, and that they can also operate abroad,” he said. “We must remember that many Dutch doctors prefer that the donor be anonymous. For this reason, despite the national registry, it is still difficult to know how many children each donor has. But this does not take into account the rights of children.”
According to Donorkind, Jonathan M. told several potential mothers-to-be that he planned to continue making sperm donations, “and has recently spoken with more couples.”
Although the Dutch press has not revealed his identity, The New York Times published an in-depth profile on Jonathan M. in 2021, revealing his full name.
In 2022, Donorkind revealed that at least 10 Dutch fertility doctors had used their own semen to inseminate their patients without their consent. The most notable case was that of Doctor Jan Karbaat, who made headlines when it was revealed that he had fathered around 80 donor children. He also had several children with different partners. Karbaat, who died in 2017 aged 89, ran a fertility clinic in Rotterdam for four decades. When treatment failed, he used his own semen.
One of Karbaat’s colleagues, Jan Wildschut, fathered at least 34 donor children, while Doctor Jos Beek is alleged to have fathered 21. The Dutch Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology condemned the doctors, saying that “the relationship between the doctor and the patient is sacred, but the trust placed in the specialist was violated.”
Donorkind expects the judges to summon Jonathan M. to court by mid-April.
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