Sperm Donation: Giving the gift of life
Prof. Michael Chapman | 22nd Nov 2012
The obsession with the celebrity world seemed to lift to new heights recently, when Australian media reported on a UK based sperm donor service that stated it aimed to match women with anonymous celebrity dads when it launched in the New Year. Marketing to celebrity obsessed women, the service claimed women will give their child ‘a head start in life’ by using sperm from a ‘proven winner’.
The service later turned out to be a hoax, but it attracted a lot of media interest; not only because the concept of a celebrity sperm donor service was so ridiculous, but because in countries like the UK and Australia where there is a severe shortage of donor sperm, any service that promises to have the solution to sourcing local donor sperm is going to capture the attention of those needing it.
Australia has been suffering a sperm donor shortage for years. Sperm donation in the UK and Australia is an altruistic act for men with a genuine desire to help individuals or couples who can’t have children for medical or social reasons. Men who do donate in Australia are those that have experienced the joys of fatherhood themselves, and who wish for others to have the same opportunity; or those that have no prospect of becoming fathers themselves but wish to help others achieve their quest for a baby.
As societal trends have evolved over recent years, the demand from single women and same sex couples wishing to access donor sperm has increased (10% increase at IVFAustralia in the last three years), while the number of sperm donors has been steadily declining for the last decade. At IVFAustralia, we normally have around 15 to 20 donors at any one time, while demand usually requires 30 to 40 donors.
Using a sperm donor is the only opportunity for these women to have a child of their own and to experience the joys of parenthood. We are actively searching for young Australian men to become sperm donors, to help these women achieve their goal of becoming mothers. So, if you are a healthy male aged between 25 and 45, I urge you to continue reading.
It takes a special kind of person to consider donating, let alone to actually go through with the process. Even for men who have a genuine desire to help others, there are some concerns which may put them off the idea.
Full anonymity is no longer possible in Australia. The potential for a child to seek out their genetic father is now a requirement. This does not mean being confronted at your front door by an 18 year old claiming that ‘you are my Dad’. A child will be able to find out if they are the result of donor conception by approaching a Government register, on which your name will have been lodged by the original treating clinic. Depending on the State, you will be contacted to notify you of the enquiry, and be given the opportunity to make contact – much in the way adopted children are linked with their original parents. This openness dissuades many potential donors.
All donors are required to discuss this issue in formal counselling sessions, and if the man has a partner, they are also required to attend the counselling sessions to ensure they understand the social, ethical and legal implications before consent forms are signed. Payment for sperm donation is also illegal, however compensation for time spent at appointments is available.
While there are occasional sensational media articles highlighting the possible implications of donation, such as legal parentage rights, rights over the child’s upbringing or any financial obligation, I encourage anybody considering becoming a sperm donor and concerned about these issues to consider these facts.
Legislation in Australia is designed to protect the rights of the donor, the recipient, but most importantly the children resulting from sperm donation. Over the years, legislation has been guided by donor conceived children - now in their late 20s and early 30s. There has, therefore, been a move away from complete anonymity, as it is deemed in the best interests of the child to have the right to know their biological origins, and to have the right to contact their biological father in the future.
Under current legislation, where the sperm donor is ‘clinic recruited’, the law protects the identity of both the donor and the recipient, until the donor conceived person turns 18 years of age. At this time, identifying details of the donor may be released to the donor conceived offspring if they request them (the donor’s information is kept on a central donor registry). Contact between a recipient and an anonymous sperm donor prior to the donor conceived child turning 18 years of age, can however be established where both parties have provided consent.
In terms of future parental obligations, laws in most States mean that sperm donors whose semen is used in assisted reproductive treatment will normally be presumed for all purposes not to be the legal father of any resulting child. This is regardless of whether or not he is known to the woman or her partner (female or male). This means that the child has no rights to any financial or other consideration from the donor, while the donor has no parental rights over the child.
Whenever I deliver a baby conceived through donor sperm, it is such a joy to see a woman cuddling her ‘so wanted child’ .I truly admire the generosity of the donor who has felt it appropriate to help out in this situation.
In addition to the single women, we also have many infertile couples, in whom the problem is a lack of sperm production in the male. Donor sperm will be their only chance to produce the pregnancy that they so desire.
Sadly, we need more men to consider becoming sperm donors to help the hundreds of women across Australia fulfil their desire of becoming mothers. Men should ideally be healthy, and aged between 25 and 45. If you, or anyone you know, are interested in learning more, contact our sperm donor nurse who will talk to you confidentially about what is involved.
To find out more about becoming or using donor sperm, visit our websites: