Just before the Easter holiday began last week the HFEA held a press conference to launch their new National Donation Strategy Group. The headline in the Daily Telegraph the following day, “Sperm and egg donation ‘should be like giving blood” caused some disgust and blood spitting amongst donor conceived adults on a Facebook book I contribute to. Lisa Jardine, the Chair of the HFEA, to whom these words were attributed, has a habit of not getting it quite right. I think she meant that opportunities to donate should be as easily and widely available as those for giving blood rather than a direct analogy between gamete and blood donation (which are of course quite different), but a later quote that she wanted egg donation to become “as obvious as blood donation” makes me wonder if she really understands the long-term implications of giving eggs or sperm to help create human life for another family. Not only is egg-donation an invasive and uncomfortable procedure that takes place over several weeks but it means, if successful, that a child carrying the DNA of the donor will be brought up by someone other than the egg provider. The donor must also understand that she must be available to that child in eighteen years time if the child chooses to make enquiries about her. In the meantime she needs to keep her contact details updated and notify her clinic or the HFEA should there be any significant change in her or her family’s medical status. This is NOT blood donation or ANYTHING like it.
The remit for members of this strategy group is –
“Increasing awareness of donation and the information that donors receive: Improving ‘customer service’ that donors receive when they contact clinics and helping donors to provide better information about themselves for the families that result.”
Whilst these are laudable aims, and I am particularly concerned at the moment about the consistency and quality of information about donors that is available for recipients, I am disappointed that the HFEA do not seem to be taking the opportunity to open up a wider debate on the future of donor conception in the UK. This should ideally take a broader look at the needs of all parties in the donation triangle with a view to informing not only current services but developing longer-term policies and services.
Applicants for the 12 to 14 places on this group are invited to submit a statement of their interest to the HFEA by 1st May 2012. The statement should address the following questions –
Reasons for applying to join the group: commitment to improving sperm and egg donation in the UK: particular knowledge or experience to bring to the group: declaration of any objection to assisted reproduction using donor gametes.
As the leading organisation for donor conception families in the UK and arguably world-wide, we will be seeking a place on the group and hope to influence a widening of the terms of reference. This does not mean that we support the change in financial arrangements for donors that came into force this month. I remain personally ashamed that a UK body could have made such a regressive decision based on no evidence whatsoever and against the wishes of the majority of respondents to the ‘consultation’. It has done us no good whatsoever in the eyes of the rest of the world and is bringing forward potential donors whose eyes are only on the money. These are not the right people to be ‘donating’ and if I am successful in my application I will do everything I can to make sure that clinics are selecting only those potential donors whose reasons for coming forward are not financially led. Donor conceived adults, who are not comfortable with the practice, may have to compromise more than this if they wish to find a voice on this group.