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FDA Aims to Shut Down One Man Sperm Bank

Tis’ the season for giving. And Trent Arsenault is taking that quite literally.

He is a one man ‘bank’ – a sperm bank, that is. He has a website that lists his education and employment information, as well as his hobbies. In addition, he gives his blood type, as well as medical information, including test results from his most recent sexually transmitted diseases screenings.

No, you didn’t stumble onto one of the lost Maury episodes.

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That’s right. Arsenault has been on a charitable mission since 2006, and has been giving away his sperm for free, so as to spare those trying to conceive the exorbitant fees charged by traditional sperm banks.

Since he’s been in the giving mood, Arsenault has fathered fourteen children, and there are four more on the way. He executes written donor agreements with his recipients and delivers his sperm in what he says are sterile storage cups.

That’s all well and good, or is it? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration aims to shut him down, on the grounds that he’s breaking the law by ignoring agency regulations covering those who “manufacture” human cells or tissues. The FDA served him with an “order to cease manufacturing” in November 2010. Specifically, the FDA claims, Arsenault has failed to adequately meet its requirements related to testing donors for communicable diseases.

However, Arsenault is challenging the order and has filed with the agency seeking a hearing on the matter. He argues that his relationship to those to whom he gives his sperm is that of a “sexually intimate partner” and that his donations are therefore not subject to FDA regulations. The case is still under consideration by the FDA, and he is being represented pro bono in his petition by lawyers from Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit public interest group Cause of Action.

Amber Taylor, who joined Cause of Action as a senior attorney in June after three years as an associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, authored the group’s November 7 brief backing Arsenault’s petition seeking a hearing.

She was quoted as saying in the recent amlawdaily.com article: “We took up the Arsenault case because we saw it as an instance where the government was improperly applying some regulations, and stepping between two individuals who were trying to have a child. We’re a little concerned when the government is telling people what kind of relationships they have.”

FDA guidelines do not actually define sexually intimate partnerships. That, the Cause of Action brief notes, is evidence that such relationships are defined on an individual basis.

Cause of Action’s brief also seeks to counter a motion to deny Arsenault’s bid for a hearing that FDA staffers filed in February. The agency argues in the order that his sexually intimate partnership claim is merely “an attempt to skirt the law.” Taylor says an evidentiary hearing is necessary to determine whether or not Arsenault’s claim holds water.

Taylor, who spent two years as an associate at O’Melveny & Myers before joining Weil in 2008, says Cause of Action contacted Arsenault in October to offer its assistance.

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