Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Contract Violation or Prejudice?

On its face, this lawsuit makes sense.  A couple went to a sperm bank and signed a contract to have sperm number X inseminated.  The sperm bank gave them the wrong sample.  The woman got pregnant on the wrong sample.  Clear case of contract violation. 

But then it gets messy.  The sperm was from an African American donor and the baby has dark colored skin.  The couple lives in the South.  They asked for higher damages in the lawsuit because of the additional challenges that raising a dark-skin-colored child in the South will entail.  While it may be true that there are added challenges, I have to agree with Art Caplan, Director of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center.  In his Everyday Ethics podcast, he makes a clear case that this is not OK. 

For one, using the baby’s race as a factor in the damage calculation is racist.  Second, imagine what the child will think in the coming years when she finds out that her parent’s sued because of her identity.  They might have been able to smooth over a contract violation as based on just the principle.  But now, they can’t.