At first, the Georgia native might have seemed like an ideal donor for couples desperate to have their own children. According to the application he had provided to the sperm bank, he was smart, talented and working towards a Ph.D. Faith in the man’s suitability were likely shattered, however, when the truth about his background finally came out.
Teacher Angie Collins and her partner Beth Hanson had decided that they wanted to start a family together. In 2006, then, the couple from Canada spent months looking at various ways in which to fulfil their dream, after which the pair plumped for using a sperm donor. But ten years on, Collins would admit to the Toronto Star, “A hitchhiker on the side of the road would have been a far more responsible option for conceiving a child” than the option she had chosen. So, what had gone so badly wrong in the intervening decade?
Well, at first, Collins explained to the newspaper that they had been dissuaded by both her doctor and a fertility expert from picking a donor with whom she and Hanson were already acquainted. According to the Toronto Star, the latter professional had revealed that “finding a known donor could be difficult and raise custody issues.”
Obviously keen to avoid such potential pitfalls down the road, Collins decided instead upon an anonymous donor. Yet her choices were limited. She received details of just a handful of sperm banks, with only one of these being Canadian. And the Canadian bank in turn had a very low number of men donating.
Collins therefore looked across the border to America. In particular, she investigated the options at Georgia’s Xytex Corporation sperm bank. And there she seemingly found the perfect man. Donor 9623, as he was known, appeared to be ideal. His written profile spoke to her, as he reminded her of Hanson: clever, with blue eyes and good at music.
Collins later conceded that there was a detail in 9623’s profile that worried her: his background was based on his own account and could not be checked for veracity. When she rang Xytex about her qualms, though, she was reassured by the company, as it allegedly told her that it conducted internal testing to a scrupulously high level.
Even so, on Xytex’s website a footnote reads, “Please note that medical history provided by the donor is not validated by reviewing the donor’s or his family’s personal medical records.” And these words would come back to haunt Collins.
Nevertheless, the prospective mom was sold on the seemingly suitable candidate, to begin with. After all, 9623 apparently had a genius-level IQ and two degrees under his belt as well as being highly skilled at playing the drums. The donor sperm therefore traveled to Toronto, where Collins was artificially inseminated. And, happily, she went on to have her little boy in July 2007.
Then, in 2014 an email was apparently accidentally leaked to the parents of 9623’s progeny. Collins only found out the details via Facebook, however, when an American woman contacted her. The other mom’s offspring had also been fathered using the same donor’s sperm.
The two women had been able to get in touch through an internet forum that linked up families who had conceived by way of donors. But the news the American was imparting to Collins was no warm and friendly update on her child; in fact, it was quite the reverse. She explained that she had discovered some unnerving details concerning 9623.
Indeed, it appeared that 9623 hadn’t divulged something important on his sperm bank profile page. Apparently, he suffered from schizophrenia – a severe mental illness that may be passed on through the genes. Desperate to dispel her fears, Collins then tried to find something more reassuring about the situation online.
However, as Collins delved deeper, it became apparent that the dishonest donor had a wide range of alarming mental health issues. Not only was he schizophrenic, but he had also displayed bipolar tendencies and been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. Then, ultimately, the Canadian put a name to the donor’s digits: he was James Christian “Chris” Aggeles from Georgia.
Furthermore, Aggeles was likely far from the ideal donor that Collins had had in mind to be the father of her child. In the past, he had admitted to breaking and entering. He had also previously been behind bars, was a college dropout and couldn’t stay in a job.
And perhaps in one of the saddest twists, Collins and the woman who had contacted her were by no means the only parents affected. According to an email from Xytex, Aggeles’ sperm had been utilized in the creation of 17 girls and 19 boys across 26 families in total.
So, in 2015 Collins and Hanson attempted to bring a lawsuit against Xytex for the company’s perceived fraudulent activity. But that and the subsequent appeal were rejected by the court, as Georgia deemed the case that of “wrongful birth” – and the state does not deal with such claims.
Still, in 2016, Collins and Hanson sued Xytex again – this time from their home country. And in the suit, the couple were seeking financial aid not only for their child, but also for all the children who had been made by using Aggeles’ sperm. Xytex was later reported to have settled a lawsuit in which Collins was one of the plaintiffs.
Meanwhile, since Collins learned about Aggeles, she has seemingly made it her mission to change the system. In particular, the mom has reached out to sperm banks among others, attempting to force them to apply more stringent standards and implement extra screening when it comes to their donors.
And, fortunately, Aggeles himself appears to have put his worst days behind him. According to the 2016 Toronto Star report, he is now married. At the time, he was also gainfully employed and working towards a master’s degree in artificial intelligence.
Still, for Collins, there is still the chance that her son may fall ill, since symptoms of schizophrenia usually only emerge after puberty. She and Hanson also intend to try to keep him on the straight and narrow, as substance abuse may prompt or worsen experiences of mental illness.
As for how the youngster himself is taking the news? Well, according to Collins, in 2015 her son asked his mom whether he was okay. To this, Collins reportedly replied, “You are fine right now” – and, by her account, he accepted this state of affairs. In the future, though, the mom and her partner have to hope that the genetic lottery is on their side.