Sperm donor anonymity was revoked in the UK in 2005, meaning that children born from donor sperm can now trace the identity of their genetic father at the age of eighteen. The same is true of egg donors. The reverse was not true at the time of the change, with gamete donors being unable to request information about any children they may have assisted in the production of; however cases have since been presented to court from sperm donors who are known to the recipient couple seeking access to the children they have produced.
This week there have been articles in the press about the perceived fall in UK sperm donors since the 2005 legislation was introduced; although few are able to prove this allegation, despite the data being available. All fertility clinics in the UK are regulated by the HFEA, who require registration data on all donors whose samples can be used to artificial reproduction techniques (thus excluding those whose samples are donated to research). In 2011, around 2,000 women received donor insemination and over the last few years, the number of embryos produced from donor procedures has remained steady; although this does not, for some reason, include ICSI procedures where sperm is directly injected into an egg, cultured and reimplanted, which somewhat muddies the waters.
In fact, contrary to the media reports, the number of new UK donor registrations with the HFEA has been rising steadily since 2005. New sperm donor registrations were actually lower in the year preceding the anonymity revoking than any other year since 1992. When the figures are broken down by UK and overseas donors, there has actually been a steady increase year-on-year since 2005. Yes, in 2005 1:10 new donors were from overseas, and in 2010 it’s 1:4, but over the same time period the UK new donor registrations have increased by a third, and overseas donors have increased four-fold, rather than a drop in UK donors and overseas donors making up a shortfall.
Of course, the data available to the public goes up to 2011, and it’s now 2014, so it’s possible that data has been selectively leaked to people who are not your humble blogger, and perhaps ICSI requests have risen stratospherically so that we can’t keep up with demand; although that wouldn’t explain why everyone is so quick to blame legislation that’s nine years old on a three year old phenomenon. Perhaps, the story here is not about a looming sperm-famine, but that you can make some good headlines out of unresearched articles produced with a mere flick of the wrist.