ASRM Meeting- Sperm Banks and the Industry

We presented two research studies at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s (ASRM) annual meeting this past week- one on the 164 sperm donors and one on the 759 offspring that we surveyed. We will now be working hard to write the donor paper, and to get our finished offspring paper published.

The meeting was a bit disheartening for me, as so many of the “experts” in the reproductive medicine field, including the mental health professionals, sperm bank folks, egg and embryo clinics and agencies, the reproductive endocrinologists, and the doctors are just not informed of many of the issues that we, the donor families face- after pregnancy. I drove home thinking that if many of them could field the emails and phone calls that the DSR receives in a week, that they would have a whole new perspective on the issues, needs and desires of the donors, offspring and recipients. They are so focused on infertility and achieving pregnancy, that not a lot of attention is paid to the families that they help to create.

I attended on “debate” on donor anonymity that was filled with quite a bit of mis-information.  “There is no scientific or psychological proof that anonymity is harmful to donor offspring”.  Even though we (and others) keep pumping out research that shows donor offspring advise that prospective parents do not use anonymous donors, and that not knowing one’s genetic, ancestral and medical background can be harmful and hurtful,  the “experts” choose to keep ignoring this research.  (74% of offspring recommend that parents use a known or willing-to-be-known donor.  83% who were not in contact with their donors wished to be. Almost 90% wished to be in contact with half siblings.  And, almost half of these respondents were not from the DSR’s website, they came from other communities and websites.) For offspring, having the ability to make connections with biological family does matter.

The director of Fairfax was adamant that donors did not have the right to know their own donor numbers, even in cases where there was medical information that the donors wished to share.  And the director of Idant still believes that anonymity is best. (Our donor research showed that 84% of donors have never been contacted for medical updates, yet 23% say that they or close  family relatives have medical or genetic issues that would be important for recipient families to know about. ) Just as the world of adoption came to realize that open and honest adoptions are best, I truly hope that the sperm banks can put their profit motives aside in the future and truly consider what is in the best interest of the child being born.

I remain adamant in my views of which sperm banks to steer clear of, and became a little more comfortable with the couple that I do recommend. As always, anyone needing assistance with choosing a sperm bank can contact me.

On the positive side, I am glad that we were even invited to present our research and that I did get to talk to quite a few people.

Wendy

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