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Hawaii Sperm Bank still in business, owner says


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POSTED: Friday, September 25, 2009

The Hawaii Sperm Bank “;is fine, and there's been no compromise,”; says Dr. Rick Williams, the subject of two “;Kokua Line”; columns because of concerns expressed by clients trying to reach him.

Williams contacted us after reading our Sept. 17 column to explain that an extended hospital stay forced him to shut down his Women's Clinic and Hawaii Sperm Bank.

He said his office will be open again on Thursday. Until then, he said people can call his office at 487-2988 to “;come and get their sperm any time they want.”;

Williams, battling cancer for the third time in 20 years, went into the hospital at the beginning of May and ended up hospitalized for three months. He is now “;OK.”;

Williams wanted to reassure clients that “;first of all, all the sperm is fine and it's still in my office.”;

Of his unexplained absence, he said, “;It looked like I was being irresponsible, but I was just trying to stay alive.”;

Because his outlook looked bleak, Williams said his family and staff had packed up the office to vacate it, but that he was in the process of putting everything back. When we visited the office on Monday, an employee was back at work.

Williams showed us the room where the Hawaii Sperm Bank basically is housed. He wanted to clarify that he does not store vials of sperm simply in a “;meat freezer.”;

He said the vials are stored in liquid nitrogen inside two large canisters—the “;sperm banks.”; The canisters are then put inside a large chest freezer and kept “;super-cold.”;

He estimates he is storing about 1,500 vials.

Williams acknowledged the Hawaii Sperm Bank is not registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but said he doesn't have to be registered because it is not “;a tissue bank.”;

The Hawaii Sperm Bank started out as a “;full-service”; operation 20 years ago, “;but now it's mostly a storage facility for people who want to store sperm in anticipation of needing it later,”; he said.

We asked the FDA about that explanation and was told that the FDA regulates establishments based on activities performed rather than on what they are.

“;If an establishment engages in the recovery, screening, testing, processing, storage or distribution of human cells, tissues, and cellular and tissue-based products (HCT/Ps), they must register and list the products with FDA,”; a spokeswoman said.

However, there are exceptions: “;You are not required to comply with the requirements of this part if you are an establishment that does not recover, screen, test, process, label, package or distribute, but only receives or stores HCT/Ps solely for implantation, transplantation, infusion or transfer within your facility.”;

Regarding the Hawaii Sperm Bank, “;We do not have all the information regarding this facility,”; the spokeswoman said.

Williams said that he charges considerably less—$500 for freezing the sperm and indefinite storage—than what mainland sperm banks would charge. Or he charges nothing.

“;What I mostly do is store sperm for guys who were going to become sterile because of chemotherapy,”; he said. For those clients, he said storage is free.

“;It's my way of giving back because I've been lucky enough to survive cancer twice,”; he said.