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Removal of anonymity potentially reduces donors by half

22 October 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 331

Professor Eric Blyth, speaking at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) conference in Montreal this week, presented an analysis of a UK Department of Health survey of sperm and egg donors, which shows that loss of donor anonymity could potentially halve the number of people donating. In April, a new law came into force in Britain, which gives children born from eggs or sperm donated after 1 April 2005 the right to trace their genetic parents.

The survey of sperm and egg donors showed that only half would definitely continue to donate if they lost their right to anonymity. Of the 133 respondents, 20 sperm donors, 38 egg donors and 7 egg share donors indicated they would still donate if anonymity were removed. Thirty-nine per cent (52) said they would not donate and 12 per cent (16) were 'unsure' whether they would donate. 'Their concerns ranged from worries about financial responsibility, their emotional response and fears of personal involvement', reported Professor Blyth, of Huddersfield University.

Professor Blyth said that the survey - and other recent studies - provides no information about the likely attitudes of potential donors who would not participate in an anonymous donation programme in the first place. He added that there has been an significant increase in enquiries to the UK's National Gamete Donation Trust from potential donors since the public awareness campaign launched at the beginning of 2005, but that it was too early to see how this would translate into actual donor recruitment. 'I think everyone accepts donation rates are going to go down initially, but no one knows by how much, but that these are likely to increase subsequently', he said after his presentation.

The head of the British Fertility Society, Richard Kennedy, said, 'We realise that there is a strong case for children to know their genetic parents but the downside of that has led to a major reduction in the availability of donors'. Professor Ian Craft, Director of the London Fertility Centre, a private fertility clinic, said 'In Britain donors have dried up...and we are seeing more reproductive tourism'.

In another study, Canadian researchers have also 'raised the spectre of reproductive tourism', as a consequence of governments tightening the rules on egg and sperm donation. They told the ASRM meeting that the US might become a prime destination for Canadians seeking donor insemination (DI), as a recently-passed Canadian law forbids payment of all but 'reasonable expenses' to donors, although it - for the time being - allows importation of sperm from the US that was paid for.

Dr Arthur Leader, from Ottawa University's fertility centre, said that when the final details of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act are worked out, the law might prevent such importation, which might 'effectively shut down' DI in Canada, as up to 90 per cent of donor sperm used in Canada comes from the US. He went on to tell the conference that only three sperm banks currently operate in Canada, compared to about 40 a few years ago. 'People will have to go to the US for artificial insemination', he said, adding: 'It will be reproductive tourism'. Dr Yifang Wang added that the number of Canadian clinics performing donor insemination has risen, from 62 in 2002 to 99 in 2004. But, he said, 'more clinics are doing insemination, but there's more reliance on US sperm'.

Fertility experts alarmed by loss of anonymity for donors
The Independent |  19 October 2005
7 April 2014 - by Dr Ruth Curson 
Sadly, there are currently not enough egg and sperm donors in the UK to meet our needs. Recipients are now seeking alternative routes to find donors, either by travelling abroad or from unregulated internet sites: both with the potential for unwanted consequences...
3 May 2011 - by Professor Eric Blyth 
During its 20-year history, the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has notched up significant achievements in the regulation of assisted human reproduction that have rightly drawn respect worldwide. An important characteristic of the HFEA's approach to regulation has been its use of public consultations to inform policy development...
25 October 2010 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A Canadian woman conceived through donor insemination has been allowed to bring legal action against the province of British Columbia to obtain information about her biological heritage, which may include the identity of the sperm donor involved....
8 May 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
A investigation undertaken by the Scotland on Sunday newspaper has found that some fertility clinics in the country are treating lesbians and single women on the National Health Service. The investigation shows that three Scottish health boards pay for donor insemination and sometimes IVF for lesbian...
30 April 2006 - by BioNews 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has urged couples seeking fertility treatments to 'think twice' about travelling to other countries for an 'IVF holiday'. The HFEA, which was set up in 1991 to regulate, license and monitor the provision of fertility treatment in the UK, said that couples...
10 October 2005 - by BioNews 
Statistics accompanying the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)'s publication of the results of its sperm, egg and embryo donation (SEED) review show that the profile of sperm donors in the UK has changed. The statistics show that men who donate sperm are now far less likely to...
26 September 2005 - by Pip Morris 
Today, John Gonzalez, founder of the internet sperm firm Man Not Included, announced that he is launching a direct mailing campaign to attract new sperm donors. The mailshot will be sent to 50,000 men, to tackle the predicted shortage of donors following the announcement earlier this year that people conceived...
25 July 2005 - by Professor Allan Pacey 
The eighth child of Charlie Chaplin was born when he was 73 and as far as we know has lived a healthy life. However, whilst most men remain fertile into their old age, it has long been recognised that to father children later in life increases the risk of their...
21 July 2005 - by BioNews 
The risk of having a child born with certain congenital problems may increase with the father's age, US and Danish researchers say. In a study of over 70,000 births, published online in the journal Human Reproduction, they report that the risk of Down syndrome and other conditions begins to increase...
8 July 2005 - by Professor Guido Pennings 
The abolition of gamete donor anonymity has led to a greater shortage of candidate donors (including sperm donors) in several countries. All kinds of solutions have been proposed, including increased payment. Another solution, namely egg sharing, has been criticised by some as morally dubious. In the meantime, as the SEED...
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