May 28, 2024

Danish sperm merchant to sail past UK fertility laws

A Danish entrepreneur is studying the possibility of anchoring fertility ships” in international waters to help people evade restrictive laws. Ole Schou, the founder of Cryos, the biggest sperm bank in Europe, wants to supply anonymous sperm to Britons unable to have IVF or artificial insemination because there are not enough sperm donors in the UK. He plans to employ professionals from the local country to provide medical services. His brainstorm is modelled upon the Dutch ship which tried to anchor off Ireland and Portugal to provide abortions.

Since the floating fertility clinic would be governed by the law of the country whose flag it is flying, there would effectively be no restrictions on almost any of its practices. Clients from Denmark, where embryos must be destroyed after two years, could use it to store embryos indefinitely. Clients from Italy could use it to conceive even if they were unmarried. Fertility legislation varies greatly within Europe, but every country has some regulations which some potential clients find onerous.

From April next year, British sperm donors are at risk of having their identity disclosed to potential offspring — a prospect which dissuades nearly all of them. Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway have similar laws and the trend is growing. As a result, many IVF clinics are facing a grave supply crisis, creating a “grey market” for Mr Schou’s product.