The number of sperm donations has increased from 239 in 2004 up to 586 in 2013 but this growth has still failed to keep up with the ever-rising demand for sperm. Exacerbating the issue, there are privately run sperm banks in the UK but opting for this route is costly and hence unfeasible for many of those in need. Most private donations used by private fertility clinics are also made overseas.
This has given rise to the ‘Viking babies’ phenomenon with fertility clinics being overly reliant on imported sperm from Denmark and other countries such as the US. Nonetheless the opening of the new sperm bank in Birmingham in 2014 seeks to not only meet the demand, but also eradicate some of the existing issues. Whether it is for single women, infertile women, same sex couples or to meet the interest of all ethnicities in the UK, the new development hopes to ‘revolutionise access to donor sperm’.
Legal rights in relation to sperm donations
Over the past few years, there has been a changing attitude towards donations and people’s rights in knowing about their parentage and genetic origins. Dr Allan Pacey, the chair of the British Fertility Society, has also voiced concerns about imported sperm making it difficult for children to meet their biological parents if they lived ‘half a world away’. While the launch of the new sperm bank may solve ethical issues of this nature, it is crucial that donors and recipients of eggs and sperm understand their legal rights.
Under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, the person/people who received the donation will be both the child’s legal and social parents, and the donor will not be named on the birth certificate. The donor will have ‘no legal, financial or social obligations to any child created’ from their donation either now or even when the child reaches adulthood. The donor will also have no rights over how the child will be brought up. However it is important to note that if a donor uses an unlicensed clinic to donate sperm, they will be considered the legal father of any child born from the donation.
Due to recent amendments, from October 2009, donors however do have new rights to access information about themselves saved by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. The statutory changes have allowed donors the right to find out if their donations were successful and anonymous information about any genetically related siblings conceived through the donation, including their sex and year of birth. With the change of anonymity laws, sperm donors should also be aware that 18-year-old donor-conceived people are able to trace and seek contact with their donors and genetically related siblings.
With the launch of the new sperm bank and the coinciding prospect of increasing number of potential donors, it is crucial that people are aware of their legal rights surrounding this area, the risks of not using a licensed clinic and the impact amendments to the law can have on their future decisions. For specialist family law advice in relation to any of these issues contact Jeetesh Patel via e- mail JPatel@rollingsons.co.uk or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.