A man in the Netherlands is making headlines after it was learned on his deathbed that he had fathered at least 80 children (and likely more than 100) through online sperm donation. Now, two of the women who gave birth to his children are working to find others in their situation.
According to NL Times, the man, identified as Leon, was on his deathbed when he gave his brother a list of women he had helped inseminate. Two of those women, Suzanne and Nina, are working to find others who used Leon’s sperm so that they might find the half-siblings of their children.
Suzanne told the news outlet De Stentor that she was willing to overlook a lot of potential issues in her quest for a child.
“In hindsight, I ignored a lot of red flags. I wanted a child more than anything, and he was able to make it happen. I had rose-tinted glasses and was simply naive,” Suzanne said. “I have a psychiatric history and did not want to be judged by a clinic. That’s why I decided to look for a sperm donor online. We got in touch through a call and spoke via email over two months. He came across as very involved and always responded quickly and very comprehensively.”
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Because the industry is unregulated, it was very easy for Leon to use an alias and lie about his history. He told Suzanne that he had two daughters and had fathered just five others through sperm donation. “I realized that he could lie about this because it could not be checked. I asked him for proof that he had no STDs and for his ID card. There was a different name on it, but his initials matched. I understood that he did not want to use his real last name on the internet,” she explained.
Nina was offered a different story, with Leon telling her that he had donated sperm to four other women and that her child would be his last. “I questioned the story, but on the other hand, I didn’t think it would be a problem if there were a few more women,” she admitted.
Both women noted that Leon was secretive, refusing to send photos until the last minute or neglecting to remove his face mask when they were in person.
The two women eventually connected online and found an entire Facebook group consisting of others who received sperm donations from Leon. Though he operated under various aliases, he circulated the same photo of himself to all of the women. While the group has 80 members, Suzanne estimates the true number of Leon’s children to be well over 100.
“If there are women who can no longer reach him or still think they can introduce him to their children, I want them to know what happened. We’ll never know the whole story, but we can answer many questions together,” Suzanne said. “I also hope that this story serves as a warning to women who are now on the journey to becoming single mothers. This is how this world works.”
As the fertility industry continues to expand unchecked, instances like this one, with countless children who have no relationship with their biological father and no idea how many half-siblings they have, will only continue to occur.
Often, children who are born through sperm donation struggle with feeling “mass-produced,” and realizing that they have dozens of biological siblings whom they do not know.