Crisci -- who now runs a nonprofit organization, My Vision, that helps women with breast cancer deal with fertility preservation questions -- was able to narrow it down to her favorites based on things like the donor's height, weight, profession and education. But when she still had trouble deciding how to pick one donor off her short list, Brown and his team came up with an idea for putting "faces" on the anonymous potential fathers she selected.
"One of the things we tried to do was sit down and create lists of celebrities that looked like the donors that Alice had narrowed her choices down to," he said. "It worked really well. She was really happy with it, and it was really helpful in making that decision."
Brown said that was the genesis of the celebrity look-alike service. Since then, it's become the latest trend in designer babies. California Cryobank says its Web site traffic is up some 600 percent in the weeks since the service launched.
But many aren't happy about it. Daniel Sulmasy, a bioethicist at the University of Chicago, likens the celebrity look-alike service to selective breeding -- shopping at the supermarket for the perfect child.
"They're not the only ones who do this sort of thing. In New York City, there's a place that specializes in Scandinavian sperm and they give the parents a card when the child is born that says 'Congratulations, it's a Viking,'" Sulmasy said. "This sort of stuff, while it seems funny, really ought to make us very frightened as we select people who have blond hair, blue eyes, are smarter and taller."
Fertility clinics have long recruited donors based on brains and brawn. But when they concentrate on beauty, like how much the offspring might look like a handsome actor, Sulmasy said there are serious repercussions.
"One of the hidden ethical issues within this approach to genetic engineering is that the people who are already well off, who are wealthy, are going to get the sperm that are going to be more perfect, have the children that are stronger, smarter, faster, more beautiful and be even more advantaged in society -- while the poor, who are already disadvantaged ... have less access to this kind of technology," Sulmasy said.
"We all know that people within our society, people who are better looking, are more likely to get jobs and be better advantaged within society," Sulmasy added. "The gap between the rich and the poor will only grow greater the more we pursue this kind of avenue."
And Sulmasy wonders what should happen if your baby doesn't end up looking like your favorite movie star?
"Maybe the child is supposed to look like Harrison Ford," he said, "and if they come out not looking as someone quite as handsome as Harrison Ford, what does that do to the relationship between the parent and the child? Are they terribly disappointed because it's not perfect? ... Genetics is, even with something like this, a bit of a lottery."
Brown said there are no guarantees.
"We're not promising that your child is going to look like these celebrities. These celebrities' children don't always look like them," he said. "Genetics is a tricky business and all we do is try to humanize and personalize the process and make it as easy for our clients as possible."
The Cryobank is quick to point out that the service is not entirely superficial. Not everyone on their list of donor look-alikes is a hunky leading man.