A man with an incurable genetic condition, who advertised his sperm to lesbians on social media, has been banned from contacting some of the children born as a result.
A family court judge took the unusual step of naming James McDougall after discovering that he had “exploited the vulnerability and strong desire of these young women to have children”.
Ms Justice Levine said there was “a very specific benefit of naming it in the hope that women will search for it on the Internet and See this verdict“.
McDougall, 37, has Fragile X syndromeIt is an inherited condition that causes a range of developmental problems including learning disabilities and cognitive impairment. The judge described him as a “complicated person” who was diagnosed with learning difficulties and on the autism spectrum.
The family court heard that he placed an advertisement as a potential sperm donor on a social media page for lesbian women looking for donors. He allegedly ended up having 15 children as a result, ranging in age from roughly four months to a few months – some of whom were applying to court for parental responsibility or contact.
Three of the mothers are vehemently opposed to McDougall having anything to do with the four children he has had. All were in their early twenties and in same-sex relationships when they became pregnant; The judge said one had learning difficulties and “appeared to be very weak” in court.
Doctors showed significant concerns about the development of one of the children, who was not yet three years old verbally and “behaviourally challenging”. The court heard that Sheffield’s Department of Children’s Services was investigating allegations that McDougall had bruised another child.
Levine found that McDougall demonstrated “fundamental irresponsibility” by not being forthcoming about his condition, which prevented him from being a sperm donor through an organized clinic.
It was mentioned in at least two of the legal agreements signed by the mothers but without any explanation of the consequences of X’s fragility. The judge said the agreement was a “three-page document in very legal language and difficult to read even for a lawyer.”
One mother said she had difficulty reading and did not make it to the third page of the agreement, where the clause was listed. Another mother said she read more of the document but either did not see or did not appreciate the importance of referring to fragile-X.
“Although the convention refers to fragile-X, [MacDougall] No steps were taken to explain the condition [the women] There are no steps to make sure they are understood. [He] She took advantage of the vulnerability of these young women and their strong desire to have children.
“This failure to take responsibility for his own condition and in the presence of any apparent concern for the long-term impact on both mothers and possibly children, is a factor in concluding that [he] Parental responsibility should not be given to children,” the judge ruled.
Levin said the women were not responsible for using MacDougall as a sperm donor without making proper inquiries about his health record, but were desperate for children.
She declined MacDougall’s request for parental responsibility and contact with the children, and allowed him to reveal his name, saying, “I have no confidence that he will not act as a sperm donor in the future.
“I don’t equally trust it fully explaining to any woman the true effects of fragile X syndrome. Therefore, there is a very definite benefit in naming it in the hope that women will look it up on the internet and see the verdict.”