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Tuesday, 9 July, 2002, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
Should sperm donors be anonymous?
The public is in favour of giving the children of sperm donors more information about their biological parents, according to a survey.

More than three-quarters of people questioned in the poll thought children born using donated sperm or eggs should have a right to know their genetic history at 18.

The poll, commissioned by the Children's Society, found almost two thirds felt donor children should have the same rights to know their biological parents as adopted children.

It comes as the government considers whether to change the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority Act.

Do you feel that children conceived through the use of donated sperm have a right to the same information as those conceived naturally? Or is there a risk that there would be a reduction in donations if anonymity was removed?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Couldn't you risk having a relationship with a half sibling?

Debbie, UK
If you don't know who your father is, couldn't you run the risk of having a relationship with a half sibling? Or even your father; stranger things have happened!
Debbie, UK

Trying to satisfy the rights of everybody is probably contradictory. Should a child who wants to know have more or less right than a perfectly normal and altruistic donor who does not wish his identity to be revealed? Perhaps we should just solve it by abandoning the process and accepting that those who can't produce either eggs or sperm just cannot procreate and that there are no absolute rights associated with these problems.
Paul B, Oxfordshire, UK

If the donor gave his sperm on the promise that his private details would not be disclosed, then that promise should be enforced. He has fulfilled his part of the bargain and the other parties should fulfil theirs in return.
Bilal Patel, London, UK

Please... The point of the whole exercise is to produce offspring. If you don't want any, then don't donate. As a male, I find it beyond comprehension why some people think they can produce children and then vanish. Children are a privilege. In cases of whose rights supersede, I will always side with the child.
GC Jordahl, U.S.A.

Denying someone this information is very insulting

Neil Ridulfa, Philippines
It is fundamentally important for a person's wellbeing, to know the identity of their biological parents. Denying someone this information is very insulting. By refusing to provide the father's identity (almost denying his existence), is like denying the child's own existence.
Neil Ridulfa, Philippines

In the US, which is the most litigious country in the world, this could open up the sperm donors to legal liability for child support payments and other financial burdens. All the responsibility and none of the fun. I know I won't be donating any.
Mark, USA

A child's right to know his or her roots far outweighs the parental right to lie to them

Dorothy Graley, UK
A child's right to know his or her roots far outweighs the donor being offered anonymity and the parental right to lie to the child. The parents, both donor and recipient, make informed choices. The law should be changed to give the child, who is the result of those choices, the same right to the information in respect of their parentage. If this decreases the number of donors, so be it. It would lead to less pain for the children in the long term. What we are in effect saying at the moment is "I want a child to satisfy my needs and I will do whatever it takes to get what I want regardless of how much it may harm the child in the long term."
Dorothy Graley, UK

I don't think that the right to know the real father has anything to do with the anonymity of the sperm donor. It is human nature for any child to want to know who his or her real father is.
Vijay K Vijayaratnam, UK

No change should be retroactive

Russ, England
The anonymity of donors should stay. Certainly no change should be retroactive. The medical history of the donor should be traceable but not identifiable to an individual. This will allow for the child/adult created from the donor to have access to information necessary to their well being but not invade the privacy of the donor. Some donors may be willing to consider providing contact details and this could be catered for by a voluntary registration scheme separate from the medical history records.
Russ, England

As a child of donor insemination, I concede that this is a tough issue. To simply make a black and white judgement is both rash and impertinent. However, I can say there is a biological need to know your parents. People who have been born with relationships to both parents simply take their own situation for granted. Remember the children of today, they are the adults of tomorrow.
Jason Welles, USA

The only sensible option is for a database to be maintained by a trusted third party

Paul, UK
Has anyone considered the feelings of the parents of the child conceived through donor sperm, donor egg or donor embryo? Donor recipients go through hell and think very long and hard about the process they are going through. It's very stressful and emotionally draining. Don't add more pressure by making it so that at the age of 18 the child can potentially wreck another family as well as their own. Some donor recipients choose not to tell the child they are a result of a donation. They have that right. The only sensible option is for a database to be maintained by a trusted third party, who can broker and requests for information both ways. Only if both parties agree should the information be given out.
Paul, UK

They had exactly the same debate here in Finland a month or so ago. They came to the sensible conclusion that no one would donate sperm unless they could remain anonymous. The overriding factor being that if they weren't anonymous, they could be chased down for benefit payments by an unscrupulous mother who they have never met. Would you want to donate sperm with that possibility looming over your head? The keyword in this debate is "donate". People are "donating" not for the very small monetary payment you get from donating sperm, but to help those who couldn't conceive otherwise. If they cannot remain anonymous, you will see very few people wishing to donate their sperm.
Simon, UK/Finland

I fear that the availability of donor sperm is going to get as bad as the availability of donor eggs

Christine, UK
Sperm donors should definitely be anonymous. As a person who's had to go through all kinds of infertility treatments I think that if I conceived a child with donor sperm my husband would still be the child's father 100%. Think of the donor's family! A man who donated some sperm while a student all of a sudden finds himself with grown up children 20 years after he went to the sperm bank. By that time he's likely to have a wife and a family of his own. How are they going to feel if the sperm donation children start showing up on their doorstep? It will completely ruin their family.

It's been suggested that the possibility of being contacted by the children conceived as a result of sperm donations would bring out more mature donors who've really thought through what they're doing. That's no good! Couples who need sperm donors need young and healthy sperm, not middle aged sperm as this is likely to be a cause of their problem to start with. I fear that the availability of donor sperm is going to get as bad as the availability of donor eggs if sperm donors face being named. The only information that should be available to the recipients of donor sperm is medical information. This information should preferably be kept up to date in the future so as to provide the child with a full medical history.
Christine, UK

Several of my friends and myself have donated sperm. The only reason I did it was because it would help people like my brother and his wife (my brother can't have kids) without making me morally or financially responsible for any child that might result. The thought that a child that was conceived using my sperm would contact me when he/she was 18 is terrifying. What if I was married with kids? What effect would that have on my family? These things are best left anonymous.
Terry, UK

Yes!! It is a fundamental right of every child to know where he/she came from. A child needs a mother and a father. Advocates for gay rights in adoption take note!
Red Kev, England

When there are so many unwanted children in the world, it seems ridiculous that sperm donors should be needed. I would prefer to see them banned as I can see no good reason why we should continue to add to the population of our already overcrowded world.
H R Lee, England

Yes, sperm donors should remain anonymous. The furthest that should be gone is that a child could make an application through a trusted third-party for their father's identity, but unless the father responds in the affirmative, then they cannot be told the identity. There should also be a limit on the number of applications allowed, to prevent harassment. Think of all the students that did it for the money. I certainly wouldn't want someone turning up on my doorstep claiming to be my son/daughter - and probably wanting financial support too! If sperm donations were not anonymous, then I certainly wouldn't donate.
David, UK

What a great way of cutting down on the supply of sperm donors!
Guy Chapman, UK

His wishes should be respected

Craig Scandrett, UK
How about a system where the donor's details are kept on record by the sperm bank and, should the child want to meet their biological father when they turn 18, a request by the sperm bank be made to the father to see if he would like to meet his child. If he would like to meet them, then they should be allowed to. However if he does not want to meet with them then his wishes should be respected and his identity remained secret.
Craig Scandrett, UK

I do not think it matters, as long as any change is not retrospective, leading to men who donated on the understanding of anonymity suddenly being contacted by their biological offspring.
Tim, UK

This is a difficult one. On the face of it, the donor should have the right to remain anonymous, but what of the child's wishes on reaching 18? I think donors should have the right initially to remain anonymous but with the clear understanding that the child will have right of access to all relevant data about his or her biological father on reaching 18. If a donor has any reservations about this, or what his feelings might be in 18 years time, he should not be allowed to donate.
Graham Rodhouse, The Netherlands

Yes and no. I think sperm donors should be traceable by banks to research medical information that might prove crucial to their biological child's health, but I do think they should remain anonymous unless both parties (donor and resulting child) agree that they want a relationship. Men donate sperm for various reasons, but they never donate sperm because they want a biological child turning up on their doorstep 20 years later saying, "Hi Dad!"
Stacey Turner, American in the UK

Should sperm donors be anonymous?



379 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

26 Jun 02 | Health
24 Jun 02 | Health
16 May 02 | Health
14 May 02 | Health
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