Media Release: Victorians warned about risks of informal sperm donation
Victorians are being urged to understand the risks of informal sperm donation before entering into arrangements outside of fertility treatment clinics.
One woman recently contacted the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority to report allegations of sexual assault against a man who offered to donate sperm informally. VARTA reported the allegations to police.
In 2019-20, 538 babies were born in Victoria as a result of sperm donation facilitated by Victorian fertility treatment clinics. This was up 26 per cent from the previous year.
However, clinics are reporting that demand for donor sperm is outstripping supply, which may be prompting some people to seek donors through unregulated channels.
Last year, single women were the largest group using donor sperm through Victorian fertility treatment clinics. They accounted for 54 per cent of people using donor sperm in IVF cycles, followed by women in same-sex relationships (32 per cent) and heterosexual couples (13 per cent).
VARTA CEO Anna MacLeod said while there may be waiting lists at times, there are many potential benefits of using a sperm donor through a regulated fertility clinic.
“Men who donate sperm through clinics are screened for infectious diseases such as HIV which can be passed on to a woman and her baby. They also complete genetic health questionnaires which may offer useful information to a woman and her child further down the track,” she said.
Clinics are also well placed to inform all parties of their rights under Victorian law. This can prevent improper claims of parentage from a donor and improper claims for child support from a recipient.
In addition to this, Ms MacLeod said an informal donor may not provide their true personal details for a woman and her child to contact them in future.
“All donors who donate through regulated clinics are required to provide identifying information for VARTA’s Central Register so the child born can access information and potentially make contact with their donor in the future,” she said.
“We’ve learnt from many donor-conceived people over the past 40 years that this information is important for them to understand their identity and heritage. It can also help if they develop an inherited disease, for example, and require medical information from their donor.”
“We’re finding that ageing sperm donors are now leaving important medical information on our donor registers for their offspring. This includes information that their offspring can act on, such as an increased risk of cancer that can be detected and treated through screening.”
VARTA is also concerned about the potential for informal donors to exceed a legal limit on how many children they can create. Under Victorian law, a donor’s gametes only be used to form up to 10 families including their own. This helps prevent people created by the same donor (half siblings or donor siblings) unwittingly entering intimate relationships with each other.
“Many donor-conceived people worldwide have spoken about how distressing it is to learn they have large numbers of half siblings,” Ms Macleod said. “We want to prevent this from happening to children conceived in future, which is why the limits exist.”
Ms MacLeod said when donors go through registered clinics, their details are entered onto VARTA’s Central Register when a birth occurs. This helps document the number of people they have assisted. If donations are occurring informally, a donor can exceed the family limit without VARTA knowing.
Ms MacLeod urged men considering sperm donation to contact Victorian fertility clinics to discuss the process further.
“Every year, hundreds of Victorian men donate sperm to help other people’s dreams come true. If donating interests you, please go through a clinic to ensure you are protected in the process.”
Media contact: Julia Medew 0402 011 438 firstname.lastname@example.org