Britain’s largest sperm bank is under investigation for banning men with dyslexia.
Campaigners accused the clinic of ‘eugenics’ – attempting to genetically improve the human race.
The London Sperm Bank has produced leaflets stating it will not accept men who are dyslexic, have ADHD, autism or certain other conditions.
But the fertility watchdog has launched a review over concerns that the policy is illegal and unfairly discriminates thousands of men.
Around 1 in 10 of the population have some degree of dyslexia which causes problems with reading, writing and spelling.
But a growing number of experts say it shouldn’t be counted as a disability as it is linked to being extremely good at maths, engineering or thinking creatively.
Famous sufferers include Sir Richard Branson, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs, the late founder of Apple.
The clinic, based on London’s Harley Street, provides sperm for around 1,000 courses of IVF a year.
Under the heading ‘reasons for being unable to accept a man as a sperm donor’, it lists neurological diseases which include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and dyslexia.
When would-be donors asked why these conditions were banned, they were told by staff it was the policy of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority watchdog.
But the HFEA insists this isn’t the case and has since launched an investigation.
Fred Fisher, a 30-year-old dyslexic Oxford graduate, found out about the ban when he tried to become a donor in November.
He told the Guardian: ‘I was really taken aback to see dyslexia listed as a neurological disease.
‘I’d never thought they would turn people way for having dyslexia, especially given how important we are told science and entrepreneurship are these days.
Mr Fisher, a software engineer based in London, added: ‘I told them this was eugenics, but it’s not even good eugenics.
‘Would they turn away Richard Branson or Albert Einstein? We need innovative people who think differently in the world. Dyslexic people make a great contribution to our society.’
Around 1 in 10 of the population have some degree of dyslexia which causes problems with reading, writing and spelling (file photo)
Steve O’Brien, chair of the Dyslexia Foundation and board member of the International Dyslexia Association, said: ‘This is eugenics.
‘It’s trying to say that dyslexics shouldn’t be in society.
‘But we’re moving into a visually dominated world of Instagram and YouTube where given the right tools it is no longer an issue, because people with dyslexia are right-brained often with hyper-visual skills.
‘By suggesting you can’t donate sperm because you’re dyslexic will knock people’s confidence. This kind of stuff is what makes people shy away from admitting they have dyslexia and asking for help.’
The term ‘eugenics’ was used to describe the Nazis’ horrific extermination of the disabled and those with mental health conditions during the 1930s.
Vanessa Smith, quality manager at the JD Healthcare group, which runs the London Sperm Bank, said: ‘The HEFA has been in touch with us.
‘In response we will be reviewing all our practices and protocols.’
She said the clinic had since withdrawn the leaflet banning dyslexia.
‘Our literature states that but the policy is under review.
‘There may be some genetic component to it. But we are going to review all the recent literature about it.”
‘We definitely don’t work in eugenics.
She added: ‘When we recruit a donor what we are looking for is good sperm that is going to freeze well and will produce a pregnancy afterwards.
‘We are looking for someone who is medically clear of infectious diseases and genetic issues that may possibly be passed on to any resulting child.
‘But we are also looking for a guy who is coming forward for the right reasons who understands the lifelong commitment to this.’