The London Sperm Bank (LSB) is to launch an online 'dating agency-style' catalogue listing the appearance, physique and personalities of its sperm donors.
The catalogue, being compiled for fertility patients seeking sperm donors, will include written statements from each donor on his reasons for donating, as well as staff assessments of the donor's personal characteristics. For example, one donor is described by the clinic as 'very individualistic, quirky and artistic in nature'. 'He has a unique 'rock star image' in terms of appearance but not at all in lifestyle or confidence', it says.
'Women can access the catalogue from home and make their choices online', said Dr Kamal Ahuja, Scientific and Managing Director of the London Women's Clinic, which is associated with the LSB.
Since April 2005, UK donors must provide identifying information about themselves, as well as information regarding their physical description, including height, weight, eye and hair colour. The information is collected by the clinic and passed on to the UK's fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Only donor-children conceived as a result of assisted conception by a UK fertility clinic have the right to request the donor's identifying information once they reach 18-years-old. Successful recipients of donor-gametes may also apply for non-identifying information about the donor.
The new catalogue is likely to provide a greater level of detail in staff assessments and written statements from donors, as well as possible details such as physical traits, hobbies, and occupation. Some clinics already provide basic information about donors to would-be patients, but they are not required to do so by law. Clinics must not provide identifying information about the donor, however.
Dr Ahuja argues that 'it would be far better to improve the image of sperm donation so that men enjoy the same respect as blood donors'. According to research by the LSB, most men now donate for altruistic reasons and also empathise with a child's right to know their biological father.
It also comes at a time when the UK is short of sperm donors. Even though the latest figures reveal that the number of new donor registrations has increased from 251 in 2005 to 396 in 2008, the number falls short of the estimated 500 new sperm donors needed each year to meet demand. To help overcome this shortage, the HFEA is currently considering how much and what sort of compensation donors can receive for their services.
The catalogue is due to be launched in September this year.