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King's College London - Health: More than a medical matter

Gamete donation campaign to be launched in UK

10 January 2005

By BioNews

Appeared in BioNews 290

The UK's Department of Health is to launch a new national campaign to recruit egg and sperm donors in the country. It hopes to prevent further shortages of donors, a problem that has been exacerbated by new regulations, coming into force in April, which will remove anonymity from all future donors. The target groups are men aged 28-40 and women aged 28-35, from all social groups.

UK fertility clinics say that they have already noticed a decline in the numbers of people coming forward to donate gametes, since the announcement, made last January, that the rules on anonymity were to be changed. The changes mean that anyone born from donations made after 5 April will be able to ask for identifying information about the donor, when they reach the age of 18. Some fertility experts predict that the decline in the number of donations will lead to infertile couples going abroad for treatment. Dr Allan Pacey, of the British Fertility Society (BFS), said that such 'fertility tourism' would lead to further inequalities between those who could afford treatment abroad, and those who couldn't. 'People will choose with their feet', he said, adding 'but it will be the rich people choosing with their feet and I think that is a terrible inequity'.

The new campaign, developed in conjunction with the National Gamete Donation Trust (NGDT), hopes to raise public awareness about the benefits of egg and sperm donation. Traditionally, sperm donors have tended to be students, who could be easily targeted through 'football programmes, magazines and student unions', and who received about £15 compensation for each donation. It is expected that future sperm donors are likely to be older men, who already have their family and who are motivated purely by altruism. The NGDT also hopes to raise the profile of egg donation, to encourage more women to come forward to donate their eggs.

Laura Spoelstra, chair of the NGDT, said 'there is a possibility that if we don't do something about it we are going to see the number of donations dry up'. She hopes that the campaign, which will include posters and leaflets, will remove the stigma attached to sperm donation in particular. It 'can be seen as seedy, involving porn magazines and a plastic cup', she said. Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson said 'we need to change people's perceptions about sperm and egg donation and dispel some of the myths about it'. She said this included the myth that a donor could become financially liable for their offspring later in life.

Last November, the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) launched a public consultation on sperm, egg and embryo donation. It is seeking views on issues such as whether there should be limits on the number of children per donor, how donor's characteristics should be matched with patients, and how much compensation donors should be paid. One proposal is that compensation for egg donors should be raised to £1000, in recognition of the more invasive nature of the donation processs, and to encourage more women to donate. The consultation takes the form of an online questionnaire, available via the HFEA's website (, and is open until 4 February 2005.


The Guardian | 30 December 2004
The Scotsman | 31 December 2004
Nationwide Campaign to Boost Egg and Sperm Donation
The Scotsman | 30 December 2004
BBC News Online | 30 December 2004


13 September 2010 - by MacKenna Roberts 
A conservative health think tank has criticised the NHS for spending an estimated 700 pounds of public funds per year on pornography. Roughly one in three of the 92 NHS hospitals with fertility clinics surveyed by provide pornographic material to male donors to help them produce a sperm sample... [Read More]
04 July 2005 - by BioNews 
Critics of a UK campaign to encourage more people to donate eggs and sperm say that each new sperm donor recruited so far has cost the Government £ 6,250, the Daily Telegraph reports. From January to May, the £300,000 'Give Life, Give Hope' campaign has resulted in 486 calls to the... [Read More]
04 April 2005 - by BioNews 
British people conceived using donated egg, sperm or embryos will be able to ask for identifying information about the donor when they reach the age of 18, following a law change that came into force on 1 April 2005. Fertility experts have welcomed the move towards openness, but fear that... [Read More]
29 March 2005 - by BioNews 
British fertility doctors say that a forthcoming law ending anonymity for egg and sperm donors will worsen the current donor shortage in the UK, and will also lead to an increase in patients seeking treatment abroad. The British Fertility Society (BFS) says it 'welcomes steps towards openness in fertility treatment... [Read More]
31 January 2005 - by Laura Witjens 
Last week saw the launch of a new campaign to recruit more egg and sperm donors in the UK. Here, Laura Witjens, egg donor and chair of the National Gamete Donation Trust (NGDT) explains why the appeal is needed: The Department of Health's 'Give Life Give Hope' campaign is all... [Read More]

29 November 2004 - by BioNews 
The UK's first 'human egg bank' is set to open this week, according to an article published in the Mail on Sunday newspaper. It is said that the bank will store and offer for sale 'more than 1500 frozen eggs', which 'infertile couples can buy for their hereditary characteristics such... [Read More]
12 November 2004 - by BioNews 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has launched a public consultation on sperm, egg and embryo donation. It is seeking views on issues such as limits on the number of children per donor, how donor's characteristics should be matched with patients, and how much compensation donors should be paid... [Read More]
20 May 2004 - by Steve Harbottle, Sudipta Paul and Jane Stewart 
One in six couples have fertility problems. Male factors are known to be responsible for about 30 per cent of these cases, and are associated with another 30 per cent in combination with female factors. Despite the advent of artificial reproductive techniques - intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) in particular - the demand... [Read More]
21 January 2004 - by BioNews 
The UK government has announced that people who donate eggs, sperm or embryos in the UK are to lose their right to anonymity. The change to the existing law - which currently does not allow children conceived using donor sperm to discover the identity of donors, but only to find out... [Read More]

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