A sperm donor who fathered 15 children despite having a rare genetic condition that causes low IQ is a “victim of his own kind heart”, his family have claimed.
James MacDougall, 37, donated his sperm to more than a dozen lesbian couples so that they could have children despite knowing that he suffered from Fragile X syndrome, an inheritable and incurable condition which leads to low IQ and developmental delay.
However, he was unmasked in a rare move by a High Court judge after he demanded access to some of the children. Mrs Justice Lieven, sitting in the Family Division of the High Court in Derby, named him in a bid to stop other women from using him as a sperm donor.
She said MacDougall’s children, born after he advertised on a social media page for lesbian women seeking sperm donors, are aged between three and a few months old, with the most recent being born in February 2022. The court heard that he was “still offering his services at that date” on social media.
The court also heard that Mr MacDougall had signed an agreement saying he did not want any contact with some of the children, but he had applied to the courts for parental responsibility orders, and child arrangements orders, allowing him to spend time with four of his children.
Three mothers opposed his request and Mrs Justice Lieven ruled that he should not have parental responsibility for the children, because it would cause “harm” to them.
She forbade him from applying to the court for the next three years, because of his “profound lack of insight” into his conduct, and also because it would be potentially “traumatising” to the mothers and “ultimately highly detrimental to the interests of the children”.
‘He just wanted to help’
However, his adoptive parents, June and John MacDougall, both 73 and based in Nottinghamshire, have spoken out to tell how their son was now “struggling with it all” after being banned from being involved in the lives of some of the children he had fathered.
The retired hospital assistant and dinner lady said: “He wanted to be part of their lives, he wanted to see his children.
“He is kind hearted and would do anything for anybody but he is gullible. He just wanted to help those people, help those women in a gay relationship fulfil their dreams and become parents.”
Speaking to the MailOnline, Mrs MacDougall, a retired hospital assistant and dinner lady, referenced the mothers in the High Court judgment and claimed her son is a “victim of those girls”.
She told how her beloved son, adopted as an allegedly abused baby, suffered from “autism and learning difficulties” and survived on disability handouts while holding down volunteer work.
She said: “This court case has broken his heart, and ours. When he first told me he had become a dad two to three years ago, he showed me a picture and said ‘This little baby is mine’.
“I was shocked because we didn’t even know he had a girlfriend and then he told me he was a sperm donor and I thought it was one and couldn’t believe it was any more.
“He said there had been other times but he didn’t want any money, he just wanted to help women, who couldn’t conceive naturally, have babies.
“It was his gift to them and he never did anything illegally, as far as we are concerned. He never knew the women, he apparently advertised in social media unknown to us, but he became good friends with a few of them.”
In her judgment, Mrs Justice Lieven said that Mr MacDougall chose to be a sperm donor despite knowing he could not go through a clinic because he has Fragile X syndrome.
She also said he should be named to stop other women from using him as a sperm donor, adding: “I have no confidence that he will not act as a sperm donor in the future.
“I equally have no confidence in him fully explaining to any woman the true implications of his Fragile X syndrome. There is therefore a very specific benefit in him being named in the hope that women will look him up on the internet and see this judgment.”
She refused his lawyer’s request for his continued anonymity, saying: “The usual approach of anonymity in the Family Courts should not be used as a way for parents to behave in an unacceptable manner and then hide behind the cloak of anonymity.”
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