ASRM Meeting: Sperm Banks and the Industry

By lmkwp2 on October 30, 2010
The Donor Sibling Registry presented two research studies at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s (ASRM's) 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 because so many of the “experts” in the reproductive medicine field — including the mental health professionals, sperm bank folks, egg and embryo clinics and agencies, reproductive endocrinologists, and 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 the DSR receives in a week, 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 on achieving pregnancy that not a lot of attention is paid to the families they help to create.

I attended on “debate” on donor anonymity that was filled with quite a bit of misinformation. “There is no scientific or psychological proof that anonymity is harmful to donor offspring.” Even though we (and others) keep pumping out research showing that donor offspring advise prospective parents to 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 interests of the children being born.

I remain adamant in my views of which sperm banks to steer clear of, and I 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 Kramer