I’ve just been sent a link to an article in yesterday’s London Evening Standard about sperm donors http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23974834-sperm-donation-whos-the-daddy.do
Actually it is about a brochure of sperm donors that is to be launched at the Alternative Families Show in September by the London Women’s Clinic (LWC). Unhelpfully the article’s headline includes emotive language like ‘who’s the daddy’ and refers to the brochure as being like a dating agency. I beg to differ. I see this as bringing sperm donation out of the shameful corner it has hidden in for far too long. As one of the donors says in the article, egg donors are feted whilst sperm donors have a tendency to be seen as slightly odd or sleazy in some way. There’s nothing strange about the three guys featured in this article and they are typical of modern unpaid donors of sperm.
Walter and I have often talked about the day when donors and recipients would be able to meet and chat prior to a donation taking place – a situation where there would be no shame on either side, but simply gratitude and respect for the help given and received. It may take a few more years for this to happen but such openness about donation is a welcome start.
LWC is a private clinic. Their sperm bank is now the largest in the country and they have a huge commercial investment in it. I personally do not like the association of profit motive with infertility but the private sector is where the vast majority of fertility procedures take place and LWC has to be congratulated on completely overhauling their system of donor recruitment through education and treating donors well, even if the bottom line is making money. In doing so they have proved that there are a considerable number of men and women who are only too happy to help others create a family and to be known to any child from the age of 18. Kamal Ahuja, from LWC, gave a paper at the ESHRE meeting in Stockholm with results from their research showing that the majority of donors at their clinic do not even claim expenses, let alone look for payment.
LWC are not the only clinic to be successful in recruiting donors. There are other good places but there are also those that moan about not being able to find suitable donors but do nothing to change either their attitudes nor their practices. The information that is very hard to find is exactly which clinics have been successful and those that whinge and put people on long waiting lists or advise them to import sperm from abroad instead.
Let’s hope the HFEA board members are listening to the successful clinics – many of whom report that donors often do not want the small amounts of money due to them – when they decide in October about payment or ‘compensation’ for donors. I doubt if they would recruit such wholesome donors as those that appeared in yesterday’s article if a financial incentive were involved.