Sperm donor Jonathan Jacob Meijer says Netflix documentary is misleading (2024)

BySteven McIntosh,Entertainment reporter

Sperm donor Jonathan Jacob Meijer says Netflix documentary is misleading (1)Sperm donor Jonathan Jacob Meijer says Netflix documentary is misleading (2)Netflix

A Dutch sperm donor who fathered hundreds of children has described a new documentary about him as "misleading".

A Netflix docuseries, released on Wednesday, focuses on the women who have had children using the sperm of Jonathan Jacob Meijer.

One woman has said she felt "betrayed, sad and angry" after finding out how many other children Meijer had fathered.

But Meijer told the BBC the documentary is deceptive because it gives prominence to those who are unhappy rather than the many families he says are grateful to him.

Responding to the interview, its executive producer described the claim that the majority of families are happy as "completely untrue".

In the interview, Meijer also said he sees "absolutely nothing wrong" with fathering hundreds of children.

The 43-year-old declined to be interviewed for the Netflix documentary, but he spoke to BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour on Wednesday.

"They deliberately called [the documentary] The Man With 1,000 Kids, when it should be 'the sperm donor who helped families conceive with 550 children'," he told the programme.

"So already from the start they are deliberately deceiving and misleading."

He continued: "I think Netflix did a great job at selecting five families [who are unhappy] out of the 225 families that I've helped, and they [the other families] will definitely tell you something else."

Netflix told Woman's Hour it would not comment on Meijer's interview, but Natalie Hill, the documentary's executive producer, did speak to the programme.

"I've spent the last four years speaking to families who have been impacted by Jonathan's lies. I've personally spoken to 45 or 50 families," she said.

"Fifty families made impact statements to the court about his lies, and pleaded with the judge that he stop. So this continued platform for Jonathan to talk about it being a handful of women is completely untrue."

Sperm donor Jonathan Jacob Meijer says Netflix documentary is misleading (3)Sperm donor Jonathan Jacob Meijer says Netflix documentary is misleading (4)Netflix

Meijer has been a donor for 17 years. In many cases, he made donations privately, which meant dealing with the families directly rather than via a private clinic.

Some women who chose him as a donor say he did not make clear to them the extent of how many other children he had fathered.

"I'm conflicted because he told me back then that he was donating to five families," one mother, Natalie, told Woman's Hour.

"It turned out in 2021 I read an article in a newspaper that it was hundreds of families. That's why I'm conflicted and don't agree with his methods."

Some women he has donated to have described him as "a narcissist", while others have suggested he represents a public health risk.

Asked if he thought his estimate of 550 children was a lot, Meijer said: "It is for a normal man, but not for a sperm donor.

"For a sperm donor it's quite common. They go up into the hundreds of children. They [the clinics] will ship the donor sem*n to multiple countries."

'Outdated views'

The docuseries received extensive coverage ahead of its launch.

In a four-star review, the Evening Standard's Vicky Jessup described it as "a story to chill the blood: a cautionary tale about the perils of the modern age".

"It’s undoubtedly fascinating viewing, albeit in a very grim way – and the revelations about sperm donation (and Meijer's way of doing it) horrifying," she said.

The Telegraph's Anita Singh said: "The film-makers try too hard to turn this into a Tinder Swindler-style tale of women exacting revenge, and there is a late twist. But even without that it’s a decent tale that prompts bigger questions about the donor industry."

Some women have expressed concerns that their child may unknowingly meet and get into a relationship with a half-sibling in the future.

Mother Natalie said: "The biggest concern is that these children are going to run into one another, and fall in love with one another, because they recognise something in each other and they're not aware of the fact that they're from the same donor dad.

"That's the biggest risk I see, because he talks about being an open and known donor, but he has donated to numerous clinics around the globe, and not all the clinics share the same values about being open and honest towards children."

Meijer pushed back on this suggestion, telling presenter Nuala McGovern the concern was based on cases where anonymous donors had been used, whereas his identity was easily available.

"I can guarantee you that, now there are cheap DNA tests, and I am on the DNA database, so they can find out," he said.

"Also, the parents will tell their children they are from a donor. So because they all know my identity, even if the chance happens that they would meet each other, they can simply ask, 'Are you a donor child?', and secondly, 'Is your donor father Jonathan?'

"These outdated views, we should stop projecting them on these children. They are very aware they are a donor child. They know how to respond."

Court case

Meijer was banned from donating sperm in the Netherlands in 2017 after it emerged he was the father of 102 children, born from donations made to 11 clinics around the country.

He continued donating in other countries until 2023, when one woman and a foundation supporting her filed a civil suit against Meijer, arguing he was increasing the risk of incest for his children.

In his testimony, Meijer admitted having between 550 and 600 children. However, the court said he may have fathered up to 1,000 across several continents.

The judge ultimately banned Meijer from donating sperm to new parents, and said he would be fined 100,000 euros (£85,000) per donation if he did so.

Meijer told Woman's Hour: "I already stopped donating for new recipients in 2019. I only donated for siblings. The court case was basically useless because I already stopped, and the court case did not prohibit me to help existing families."

Asked if he saw any problem with his actions, Meijer said: "I see absolutely nothing wrong with it. I think it's very good. I see that they [the children] have many friends, they meet with each other.

"And I cannot speak for them, but from what I've seen, they are very happy that they have so many siblings. Because they [the half-siblings] meet on donor days, they meet with each other and go on holiday together."

Discussing his reasons for becoming a sperm donor, Meijer said: "The misconception is I had some sort of plan. Basically I was in college and there was a friend of mine who was infertile.

"It had a big impact on me, because I saw the effect that it had on his life. So I started to be interested... and I started to think, could I be a donor?"

When McGovern asked if Meijer understood the way the women felt, he said: "Why should they be uncomfortable? It's what they chose.

"If you want exclusivity, you go to the clinic, you pay 10,000 euros and then your donor is exclusive. If you don't want to share as a mother, why did you choose this path?"

Defending the docu-series, Hill told Woman's Hour: "The documentary series, which we've spent a long time making and researching carefully, has comments and research from multiple families all across the world. And to suggest that he knows all these families and that they're all happy is not true.

"In the series, you can see how Jonathan has been able to lie with the lack of legal landscape and the lack of transparency in fertility overall. And the consequences to the families is really well brought out in the documentary series."

In a statement, the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said the Netflix series "may be stressful and upsetting for the families of some donor-conceived children".

Speaking to Radio 4, Rachel Cutting, director of compliance and information at the HFEA, added: "Fertility treatment in the UK is very regulated, and that isn't always the case globally... Within the UK, we have a 10-family limit.

"But what can happen is donors can donate outside the UK, so while we have control in the UK, the HFEA does not have any jurisdiction outside the UK, or what happens with private donations, which is why we encourage women to go to a licensed HFEA clinic."







Sperm donor Jonathan Jacob Meijer says Netflix documentary is misleading (2024)


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