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UTAH EXPERT CALLS JACOBSON'S BEHAVIOR `EXTREMELY UNETHICAL'

An infertility doctor's donating his own sperm without the patient's knowledge is an "extremely extraordinary event that virtually doesn't happen at all," according to a Utah infertility expert.

Responding to the Cecil Jacobson verdict - guilty on 52 counts of fraud and perjury - Ronald L. Urry, who directs the University of Utah sperm donor program, says Jacobson's behavior was "extremely unethical.""I've helped couples get pregnant through donated sperm for 20 years. I won't say there aren't some doctors that use their own sperm. But every authority in this business would agree it's something most doctors wouldn't even consider."

The university is the only sperm bank in Utah. But a few private physicians get their sperm from other sources. Private physicians may be more vulnerable to problems, he said.

"But I don't know any doctor in 20 years who has used his sperm."

The Jacobson trial publicity has not resulted in any couple withdrawing from the donor infertility program, but it may affect a couple's decision to consider donor sperm as an option in the future, he said.

Having helped more than 1,000 couples through anonymous sperm donation, Urry, an obstetrics/gynecology and urology professor, has never had a dissatisfied couple that has gotten pregnant.

"There have been situations with known donors, however, that haven't worked out as well," he said. "It requires an incredibly strong family structure to use someone you know. Family situations usually come up that can make it uncomfortable."

Shunning the terms "artificial insemination," Urry prefers to call his program "Adopt a Sperm."

This alternative, he believes, is preferable to conventional adoption because it gives control to the couple - they choose the characteristics of the donor, the mother goes through the birthing process and the father's name is on the birth certificate.

Urry's standards for potential donors are high. The bottom line that governs whom he will accept is simple: "I don't accept any donor whom I wouldn't use for my wife."

When Urry first began insemination programs in New York in 1972, most donors were motivated by money and many were medical students. Now, however, donors want to contribute because have a genuine interest in helping others and they have varied professional backgrounds. They usually know someone who is having problems becoming pregnant.

The hoops Urry requires a potential donor to jump through begin with an intensive interview.

"Any kind of donor program attracts people who are fairly bizarre. We get rid of those people promptly."

If a potential donor passes the initial interview, then he fills out a series of medical, family and sexual histories - including the health of relatives. If there is a pattern of cancer or diabetes, for instance, the donor is eliminated.

Rigid physical examinations are conducted.

Sexually transmitted diseases are thoroughly screened, he said. "Everything we know that can be transmitted through body fluid is examined."

Urry then interviews the would-be donors himself - particularly probing the man's motive for donating. "I really get to know them," he said. Frequently, the man is married and his wife attends the interview.

Legal papers must be signed releasing any parental rights. Anonymity of the donor is ensured.

Semen samples undergo a battery of tests to indicate strength - whether a sperm "has the ability to get into an egg." Semen is labeled according to physical characteristics, including nationality, race, blood type, complexion, hair texture, height and weight. Years of education of the donor is indicated.

Only one in 15 makes it through the process. At any given time, the U. sperm bank contains 70 to 80 donor samples. Sperm is shipped to hospitals in other parts of the country. But strict records are kept on how many children are fathered by a certain donor. A donor may father up to five children in the Intermountain area. The chances of a child of a donor marrying a person also fathered by the same donor are only 1/10,000th of 1 percent - or 0.0001 percent, he said.

"A couple considering sperm adoption can have confidence in our program. It's a very happy choice for many, many couples," said Urry.