A new law that requires sperm donors to be identifiable has come into force in the Netherlands, resulting in a dramatic drop in the number of men coming forward to donate. Women wanting to obtain sperm from Dutch sperm banks are now apparently facing up to two years on a waiting list, since even before the new rules took effect on 1 June.
The law, which was passed after 10 years of deliberation, says that Dutch fertility centres can no longer take anonymously-donated sperm samples, and stipulates that all donor-conceived children will be able to find out the identity of their biological father at the age of 16. One Dutch clinic, in Barendrecht, says that the number of sperm donors on its books has fallen, in anticipation of the new law, from 135 to only 15. Dr Jan Karbaat, from the Bijdorp clinic, said 'I have just placed an advertisement for donors, but got zero reactions', adding that his clinic is considering offering payments for donations.
According to reports, a number of Dutch women who want to use donated sperm in order to have a child are crossing the border to Belgium, where donation can still take place anonymously. Hospitals in the Belgian towns of Antwerp and Ghent are reporting an increase in the number of enquiries from Dutch women: one fertility centre says that Dutch nationals now account for five per cent of its patients. A BBC report suggests that it is also likely that Dutch women are seeking sperm from friends in informal arrangements, or via the Internet.
Meanwhile, another clinic in Australia has launched an advertising campaign because of a shortage of both sperm and egg donors. Staff at the IVF clinic in Ballarat say that they have a number of childless couples on their waiting lists, and the need for donors is becoming 'urgent'. Dr Russell Dalton, director of the clinic, said: 'It's very difficult, many of these couples have tried to conceive before coming to us and then go through IVF with their own sperm and then are met with the prospect of needing a donor'. Dr Dalton said the clinic is working with the University of Ballarat to determine how many families could benefit from one donor. National fertility guidelines in Australia suggest that 10 families could use one donor's sperm, but Dr Dalton said the university study was to determine how many couples the clinic would release the sperm of one donor to. He added that the clinic's ethics committee was likely to set a lower number, 'possibly around five'.