Sperm bank's closure leaves clients in dark


POSTED: Thursday, September 17, 2009

Since we wrote about the unannounced closure of the Women's Clinic and Hawaii Sperm Bank (Kokua Line, June 24, 2009), we've heard from a couple of other clients wondering what happened, including a woman who had hoped to have in vitro fertilization next month.

She said she found out about the closing only after reading our column and was trying to find out how to contact Dr. Rick Williams.

We haven't found anyone who knows how to contact Williams, who ran the clinic and sperm bank, or what happened to the sperm he had stored.

His staff indicated he was having health problems, according to “;John,”; a former client, who saw him in January. (He did not want to be identified.)

Initially, John said, Williams told him he couldn't find his files and thought they might be at his apartment, which John considered “;kind of strange.”; The files were never located, but Williams was able to find John's vials, which were stored in a “;meat freezer”; in Williams' office.

Since then, his wife has become pregnant and the couple is expecting a child in January.

But “;after reading your column, it struck us that if we had waited a month or two later, that we may have been in the same situation”; of not having anything, he said.

The Hawaii Medical Association, whose membership is voluntary, said it has no current information on Williams. The last contact number—487-2988—is the one we called in June.

When we called that number yesterday, we got the same recording we heard previously: The office was temporarily closed and callers should either go to an emergency room or contact a doctor whose staff told us they didn't know why people were being referred to his office.

The Pacific In Vitro Fertilization Institute at Kapiolani Medical Center said it had not been notified of any closure of the sperm bank and it had no contact information for Williams.

As for regulatory agencies, there is no state regulation of sperm banks and a spokeswoman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told us in June that while sperm banks do have to register with the agency, federal regulations don't address the issue of closure. The Hawaii Sperm Bank was not on the FDA's registry.

The FDA's authority, generally, is to make sure that an establishment followed all procedures in testing, screening and determining donor eligibility.

Meanwhile, the state Regulated Industries Complaints Office would become involved “;only if the conduct included the practice of medicine,”; said complaints officer Jo Ann Uchida.

Asked whether a sperm bank operated by a physician wouldn't fall under that definition, Uchida said, “;A company that receives and stores bodily fluids (like a lab that collected blood samples) is not necessarily involved in the practice of medicine even if an M.D. operated the company.”;

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