Sperm donation is an amazing gift that’s not to be undertaken lightly. It can enable someone who would not otherwise have a family to start one. However, there are many issues that affect sperm donors in the UK, to the point that many are considering stopping. There is already a major shortage of sperm donors in the UK, and for many women who do not have a male partner, or whose male partners are infertile sperm donation is the only way they can have a family of their own. Here we discuss a few issues in the sperm donation industry and how they affect donors today.
1) Right To Anonymity
In 2005 the right to anonymity for sperm donors ended. This means that once donor-created individuals turn 18, they will be able to trace their genetic fathers. Although this is not retrospective, and the first time people will be able to trace their donors is 2023, there is a definite worry that the number of people donating sperm will fall; a worrying concept considering there is already a shortage of donated material. In many cases the worries men have about being tracked down by donor-created children are unfounded and based on misunderstandings. This change is simply to allow people who were conceived via sperm donation to learn more about their genetic origins.
Sperm donors will not, however, be able to trace any children resulting from their donation. Neither will they have any parental obligation or responsibility. In actual fact sperm banks are seeing a very different kind of sperm donor coming forward; rather than young, single men who don’t want children, many donors are now older and already have families of their own.
2) Private Sperm Donation and Parental Responsibility
There have been cases in the news recently of private sperm donation (conducted outside the proper channels) and parental responsibility. In these cases a male has provided sperm for use in the insemination of an agreed female. However, if not done through the proper channels, this can leave both parties unprotected in terms of legal issues and parental rights. The best way to safeguard yourself against these kinds of problems is to exclusively donate through proper clinics. This is in the interest of all parties; not least those of any resulting children.
Donating solely through HFEA licensed clinics is safest for both the donor and the woman receiving the sperm. If you are considering donating outside of these channels your legal position may be different and require closer scrutiny.
3) Withdrawing Your Consent
If you’re currently happy to donate but are not sure how you will feel about it in the future, then it’s good to know that you can withdraw your consent for the use of your sperm. However, if this is a worry for you from the outset, then it’s important to speak to the clinic you’re considering using. If, for example you were to discover a genetic illness in your family it’s important to let your clinic know as soon as possible so that they can reassess your suitability. This is rare however, as HFEA licensed clinics require donated sperm to undergo screening and DNA testing prior to use in order to avoid such problems.
There are many issues facing modern sperm donors, however it is an amazing gift to give, and will allow someone to create a family who otherwise could not. Many perceived problems that deter prospective donors are based on ignorance. The information is out there and as long as you donate through a HFEA licensed clinic you will be well protected.
Written by Matt Higgins, a scientist and blogger.