Sperm Donation: Giving the gift of life
Dr Louise Fay | 29th Nov 2013
The recent SBS Insights Program is to be congratulated for exploring the complex issue of sperm donation in Australia. ”Insights” presented various aspects of this emotional, sensitive and often misunderstood path of creating a family.
This topic surfaced again at our ‘Fertility in the City’ event recently where we were discussing moving from contraception to conception. A proportion of the audience were women in same sex relationships and single women considering the use of sperm donation in the future.
Sperm donation in Australia is an altruistic gesture for men with a genuine desire to help individuals or couples who can’t have children for medical or social reasons. Australian donors include those that have experienced the joys of fatherhood themselves, and others who simply wish to help others achieve their desire for a baby.
Australia has experienced a paucity of sperm donors, and as societal trends have evolved over recent years, the demand to access has increased (10% rise at IVFAustralia in the last three years), At IVFAustralia, we have on average 20 donors at any one time, whereas demand usually requires 30 to 40 donors.
Using a sperm donor is the only opportunity for some women to have a child of their own and to experience the joys of parenthood. To assist us in achieving this we are actively searching for young Australian men to donate, 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...
Anonymity is no longer possible in Australia. The potential for a child to seek the identity of their genetic parent is now a requirement by law. This has been guided by the emotional needs of donor conceived children who wish to connect. The donor registry at the Health Department holds this information which is available to the child upon turning eighteen years. This openness dissuades many potential donors.
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. It is deemed in the best interests of the child to have the right to know their biological origins, and to have the entitlement to connect with that person.
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 to ensure they understand the social, ethical and legal implications before consent forms are signed. Payment for sperm donation is also illegal; however, all medical costs incurred by the donor are absorbed by the clinic.
In terms of parental obligations, laws in most States delineate that sperm donors whose semen is used in assisted reproductive treatment will 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 financial or other rights from the donor, while the donor has no parental rights over the child.
As a fertility specialist, I meet many women and couples achieving their dream of parenthood, and I feel privileged to be involved in the process. This selfless gesture of helping such people is admirable.
We need more men to consider becoming sperm donors to help such people across Australia fulfil their desire of creating their family. If you, or anyone you know, are interested in learning more, contact our donor programme co-ordinator who will talk to you confidentially about what is involved.
Find out more about the steps invovled to donate sperm in your state: