“Yes.” Marcus hit the SPEAKER button, then a woman’s voice came on the line.
“Mr. Nilsson, this is Lee Ann Demipetto. How may I help you?”
“My wife conceived using sperm from Donor 3319 and she is almost two months pregnant. We saw a news report today that a man named Zachary Jeffcoat was arrested for serial murder in Pennsylvania, and my wife is concerned that he is our donor. Now we see that Donor 3319’s sperm has been taken off the shelves. We’d like to know if Donor 3319 is Zachary Jeffcoat.”
“Mr. Nilsson, we usually deal with your healthcare provider—”
“I understand that, but I’d like you to deal with me.” Marcus kept his tone firm and controlled. “Is Donor 3319 Zachary Jeffcoat?”
“Mr. Nilsson, I did have a phone conversation tonight with Dr. Davidow, and he told me of your concerns. We are going to investigate this matter, and we agreed that in an abundance of caution, we would remove 3319 from our general inventory of available donors.”
“You didn’t answer my question. Is Donor 3319 Zachary Jeffcoat or not?”
Christine tried to stay calm while she listened. Her panic was giving way to stone cold fear. If Marcus was worried, then she was really worried.
“Mr. Nilsson, I’m sorry, but we cannot disclose that information. If you review the contract you signed with Homestead—”
“I didn’t sign any contract.”
“I have the file in front of me, and you did sign a contract. I’m looking at a scanned copy of your signature and your wife’s signature. It would’ve been given to you by Dr. Davidow or one of his associates.”
Christine remembered their signing the contract, four pages of fine print, probably in her file. She didn’t remember reading it, but she would’ve signed anything to get a baby.
“Mr. Nilsson, do you recall that contract now? Paragraph 27 of your agreement clearly states, ‘Homestead will not under any circumstances release identifying information on our donors to any other party, including the parents of individuals conceived using Homestead donor sperm.’”
“So you’re not going to answer my question?”
“No, I can’t. The terms of our contract with you are clear. In addition, we have a contractual relationship with 3319, which states explicitly that we promise to keep his identity anonymous, under any and all circumstances.”
“So you really won’t tell me?” Marcus raised his voice.
“I’m legally bound to 3319 not to.”
“Legally bound to a serial killer, over a paying customer? Over us?”
“In any event, Mr. Nilsson.”
Christine’s heart hammered. Demipetto sounded so final, her voice rich with authority, as if she had been ready for the call.
“Mr. Nilsson, our legal requirement that we keep confidential the identity of our sperm and egg donors is the cornerstone of Homestead and every other bank in the country. In addition, 3319 stated explicitly in his interview that he did not want his identity revealed because of his parents’ religious beliefs, which conflicted with his own.”
Marcus scoffed. “What kind of religious beliefs does a serial killer have?”
“I understand your concern, and we hope that you will understand our concern. Homestead helps over twelve thousand women a year to conceive, and the integrity of our process is of paramount importance to us. The keystone of our system is the anonymity of our donors—”
“Can you at least tell me his birth date?”
“Place of birth?”
“When did he make the donation?”
“I can’t disclose that.”
“Can you verify that he’s in medical school? He had been accepted when he filled out the form.”
“The information we are given by our donors is verified, to the extent possible, at the time of donation. We do not keep ongoing tabs on our donors, and you can understand how updating this information would be beyond our means.”
Christine felt herself slump backwards against the headboard, suddenly weak. She tried to wrap her mind around what she was hearing, the shock settling into her very bones.
“No, I don’t understand that,” Marcus shot back, irate. “I think that’s your responsibility. I own a business, and I stand behind my relationships to my clients.”
“Homestead is not a business, per se—”
“Of course it is. You charged me for the sperm. What screening do you do for your sperm donors, specifically?”
“We screen for chlamydia, HIV one and two, hepatitis B, gonorrhea, hepatitis C, syphilis. We do genetic screening for cystic fibrosis, spinal muscular atrophy, and various hemoglobins for thalassemia. We do a standard CBC and chem panel. Our sperm samples meet current FDA and Tissue Bank licensing protocol at the time of release, which you will see at paragraph 17 of your contract and—”
“I’m not talking about blood panels. This is a situation where someone is arrested for serial killing. Do you do criminal-background checks?”
“You checked our donor’s criminal record?”
“Yes, or he would not have been approved for donation.”
“So Donor 3319 had no criminal record?”
“As I said, no one is approved with a criminal record.”
Marcus shook his head. “That doesn’t answer my question, but okay.”
Suddenly a text alert sounded on Christine’s phone, and she glanced at the screen. The banner showed it was Lauren, and the text read, Call Me. The website is changed. Christine picked up the phone and texted back, On it.
Marcus was asking Demipetto, “Do you do psychological checks?”
“We screen for immediate family with a mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. You can see that in the online donor profiles.”
“But that relies on the donor’s say-so.”
“Yes, and we note that in every donor profile, including 3319’s. It reads, ‘The above family and medical history, and all other information, has been self-reported by the donor. We work with each donor to obtain as complete and accurate information as possible, but we are unable to completely rule out the existence of health or other information that is not known or that remains unreported to us.’”