13 September 2010
ByAppeared in BioNews 575
Two men in the UK have been prosecuted for allegedly offering sperm for sale over the Internet, according to BBC News. Ricky Gage, 49, and Nigel Woodforth, 42, both from Reading, are facing two charges brought under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 for operating a website known as Fertility 1st without a licence.
The prosecution at South Crown Court outlined how the pair used the website, also known as Sperm Direct Limited and First4Fertility, to introduce potential sperm donors to fertility patients who paid a 80 GBP joining fee, 300 GBP to use the service and 150 GBP per delivery of sperm. Women would gain access to a database of anonymous sperm donors and the sperm would be delivered by courier to their door.
In what is believed to be the first prosecution of its kind under the Act, the defendants face two counts of illegally procuring sperm. Under the Act, the procurement, testing and distribution of gametes, including sperm, intended for human use is prohibited without a licence from the fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). The men argue the website merely introduced fertility patients to sperm donors and acted as an information database. The prosecution allege, however, that their activity does amount to procurement under the law.
Last January, the fertility journal The Obstetrician and Gynaecologist warned of websites offering 'e-semination' services operating outside the HFEA's regulations. Dr Allan Pacey said to the Telegraph at the time that such services cannot guarantee the sperm is infection free. The law is also unclear on the status of fathers who choose to donate to online services operating outside of the UK's regulatory controls. They may find themselves the legal father of any children born using their sperm and run the risk of being pursued for child support payments, Dr Pacey told BioNews.
Mr Gage and Mr Woodforth have run into trouble with the regulator before - in 2009 - when both men faced criminal prosecution for operating services for the sale of 'fresh' sperm without a licence.
The present case continues.