Off to the land of dark and horrific crime fiction and oversized and intricately patterned wooly sweaters tomorrow. Stockholm is the setting this year for the largest get together of fertility professionals in Europe, the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE). A truly ghastly gathering of the well-heeled and often arrogant men and women on whom so many rely to make their dreams of a family come true. Most of the presentations will be about the scientific aspects of getting women pregnant or why this is not happening, but in odd corners you can come across slightly less affluent looking knots of people talking about families and how they are managing, pre and post using donated gametes for family creation. On Monday there will be a whole hour devoted to research on these families. But on the Sunday, at the pre-congress course of the Special Interest Group Psychology and Counselling, we are spending a full day thinking about them. There are presentations on open-identity embryo donation in New Zealand, gay men in the US using surrogacy and egg donation for family building and then a talk on intra-familial gamete donation. In the afternoon Ken Daniels from New Zealand and I get to speak about sharing information with young adults and teenagers and then hear from Marilyn Crawshaw from York on preparing semen donors and offspring for contact and Sheila Pike from Sheffield’s Jessop clinic about pre and post-treatment counselling for egg donors. Should be a good day, but sadly only likely to be attended by counsellors and other mental health professionals. It is the clinicians who could do with being there, but for most of them what happens after they have achieved miracle pregnancies is of little interest. This is why they almost universally opposed the ending of anonymity for donors and made donor recruitment post 2005 very difficult by assuming that no-one would want to donate identifiably. They shut their eyes to evidence from one or two leading clinics who discovered that targeting older men and becoming more donor friendly by opening in the evening and at weekends and having an friendly but efficient answering machine system, actually brought in the right type of person and in sufficient numbers. Resistance to change (we know best) and that old friend money were the likely culprits in equal part. Luckily, lessons have mostly now been learned and sperm donor recruitment is increasing but a well-funded, innovative and consistent awareness raising campaign is still needed for egg donors.
Perhaps best for those revealing ESHRE connections not to frequent the narrow streets of Gamla Stan after dark this coming week. Who knows what might happen!
No more posts till July 7th.