April 18, 2024

Revise US sperm donor regulation, say bioethicists

Insuperable barriers to complete knowledge

Do donor-conceived children have a right to
know their origins? Vardit Ravitsky, of the University of Montreal, and Joanna
E. Scheib, research director of The Sperm Bank of California in Berkeley, say
that they do in a recent issue of Bioethics Forum.

It is not possible to get a completely
accurate picture what donor-conceived children feel. Surveys of children who
are looking for their sperm-donor fathers are affected by sample bias. On the
other hand, most parents fail to tell their children if they are
donor-conceived. This “creates an insurmountable limitation to the study sample
in any research on the life experiences of donor offspring”.

However, nearly all surveys, imperfect as
they are, indicate that most children would like more information about their
biological father. Consequently, the authors have two suggestions for the
regulation of donor gametes in the United States. First, the FDA should require
records to be kept indefinitely by donor insemination programs, sperm banks,
and fertility clinics. Second, a national register should be established to
safeguard all information related to sperm and egg donation.

Ravitsky and Scheib know that there is
little chance that the US will ban donor anonymity in the short term. But if ever
the day comes, the information will exist in a central registry. ~ Bioethics
Forum, July 20

Michael Cook
donor anonymity
sperm donation