Monday, June 30, 2014

Dear Mr. Arsenault

Order to Cease Manufacturing of HCT/Ps - Trent Arsenault
November 1, 2010

I am not making any of this up.

Fremont, CA resident T. Arsenault found himself on the business end of a cease-and-desist order from the FDA of all august organizations to quit selling his, um, genetic material over the Internet in 2010. Click the link for a more glorious timeline.

After a surprise inspection, the FDA found: "your Establishment does not provide adequate protections against the risks of communicable disease transmission through the use of these HCT/Ps."

HCT/P stands for "human cells, tissues, and cellular and tissue-based products."

Mr. Arsenault provides the same services as a sperm bank, but without all the regulatory hassle. It's the Craigslist of sperm donation, though he does claim to be a virgin and posts recent, dated STI test results on his site.

Curious: Mr. Arsenault could presumably visit recipients in person, impregnate them locally in the old-fashioned way and continue on his merry way—a modern-day Johnny Appleseed—without incurring the attentions of the FDA. Correct?

Does the fact that this procedure is done remotely increase the risk of infection?

Does the exchange of money increase the risk of infection?

How is this anything but a private contract between two consenting adults? Where is the public interest? I don't see the moral intuition. If it's okay for a woman to get pregnant, the specific mechanism should be her choice.


Today's SCOTUS decision on Hobby Lobby sure seems to be generating some moral outrage. This bullying by the FDA seems at least as bad. What's the difference? Is coercion exercised by the state exempt from moral scrutiny in a way that "coercion" exercised by an employer is not? Why?

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?