Aussie couple accuse Queensland Fertility Group of using the ‘wrong sperm’ after discovering their children are not related

A couple have accused a major IVF clinic of using the ‘wrong sperm’ after their two youngest children developed serious health complications and they discovered they were not related to their eldest child. 

Anastasia and Lexie Gunn conceived three sons through donor sperm at the Queensland Fertility Group (QFG) between 2006 and 2014.

The couple had paid for the same donor’s sperm to be used for all three children but later discovered that their eldest was not related to his two younger brothers after hundreds of hours of painstaking research.

‘It’s a catastrophic error… how could they have used the wrong sperm to make children?’ Anastasia said. 

‘We had IVF and got the wrong sperm,’ Lexie added.

‘It’s shattered what we all believe to be true.’

The revelations come as part of a major investigation by the ABC’s Four Corners into Australia’s immensely profitable IVF industry.

Anastasia told the program they had taken great care to choose the right donor, deciding on Donor 227. who was billed as a fit, healthy white male who was around 25–30 years old.

‘Medical background was definitely of concern to me,’ she said.

Four years after their first son was born, they decided to have more children and contacted QFG to see if they could use the same donor.

‘We wanted them all to have the same biological father to tie them together so that then when they have children, their children are all tied together with biological history,’ Anastasia said.

The clinic told them they could use the same donor and they ended up having two more sons.

But both boys suffered serious health complications from birth.

They were diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which causes very flexible joints and fragile skin, while the youngest also had a diagnosis for autism and ADHD.

Concerned by the number of health conditions, the couple tried to find out if any other children of donor 227 had similar problems so they sent their sons’ DNA to an ancestry website.

But the results shocked them when they discovered their eldest was not biologically-related to their youngest two.

‘I was completely perplexed,’ Anastasia said. 

‘I could see that there was no match between our eldest boy and our younger two.’

Anastasia and Lexie Gunn conceived three sons through donor sperm at the Queensland Fertility Group (QFG) between 2006 and 2014 (pictured). But they were horrified to discover that their eldest was not biologically related to his younger two siblings

QFG doubted the reliability of the DNA results so the couple used a DNA testing lab used by the Family Law Court, which returned the same results. 

‘(QFG) have not provided any response to that legal DNA testing whatsoever,” Anastasia said. 

‘They have offered no rationale.’

The couple are currently suing QFG in a bid to hold the fertility clinic to account.

Lexie said that she would go as far as selling her kidneys to fight the case.

‘I think it’s a very dangerous thing to underestimate all mothers, but particularly mothers of children with disabilities,’ she said.

‘I think they’ve messed with the wrong women.’

The clinic told the program that its records showed the same donor was used for all three children. 

The couple had paid for the same donor sperm to be used for all three children but later discovered that their eldest was not related to his two younger brothers after hundreds of hours of painstaking research (Pictured: Anastasia)

The couple had paid for the same donor sperm to be used for all three children but later discovered that their eldest was not related to his two younger brothers after hundreds of hours of painstaking research (Pictured: Anastasia)

In a statement published on its website, QFG said it ‘acknowledged the difficulties that the Gunns have faced since we helped them to start their family and we are keen to work with them to find a mutually acceptable resolution’.

However, it said it could not comment further because the case was before the courts.  

QFG is owned by Australia’s largest IVF provider, Virtus Health.

The program also spoke to three mothers who all used the same sperm donor and whose children were subsequently diagnosed with a range of autism-related disorders. 

The mothers asked the clinic to share information about their children’s matching health issues but it initially insisted there was no clinical requirement to notify other patients. 

Despite the health concerns, the donor is still reportedly being used by QFG to conceive more children.

‘It’s continuing to be sold as probably gold-class Australian sperm,’ one of the concerned mothers told the program.

‘I just don’t understand how they can create kids with something that there’s a higher chance of it turning into disability. It’s just money. It’s all it is.’

QFG said in a statement that they were informed in 2023 by another family who had used the same donor that their children had been diagnosed with autism. 

‘The nominated clinical geneticist reviewed all three cases and then advised that families who had donor conceived people from the donor should now be informed of the diagnosis, and that the donor’s sperm should only be available for family extension,’ a spokesperson for the clinic said. 

They added: ‘By November 2023, we had advised all patients with donor conceived people from the donor of the clinical diagnosis of autism.’ 

Lexie Gunn (pictured) and her wife are suing Queensland Fertility Group. 'I think they've messed with the wrong women,' Lexie told Four Corners

Lexie Gunn (pictured) and her wife are suing Queensland Fertility Group. ‘I think they’ve messed with the wrong women,’ Lexie told Four Corners

The program also spoke to one woman who discovered she could have up to 700 half-siblings because her biological father was a prolific sperm donor.

Katherine Dawson, 34, found out that poor vetting practices allowed her biological father to donate to a range of clinic during the 1980s under different names, therefore generating different donor codes.

Back then, donors could be paid $10 per donation and could donate multiple times. 

But today, it’s illegal to pay a donor and they are normally only legally allowed to create between five to 10 families.

‘I think that there were seven [names] including his own,’ Katherine says of her donor father.

‘Then if you go to 10 different clinics and hospitals, like he said he did … I estimate that there could be up to 700 siblings.’

The clinic said that ‘current donor vetting processes have vastly changed since that time and would prevent this from happening today’.

They wrote to recipient families and almost two-thirds received the letter. 

‘We continue our efforts to contact the recipient families who did not respond to our original letter, so that we can disclose all relevant health information as it relates to this donor,’ the statement added.

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