ASRM’s Mental Health Professional Group’s sponsorship

By admin on October 30, 2012

For over a dozen years, the Donor Sibling Registry has been focused on openness, mutual consent contact and acknowledging kinship, and the updating and sharing of medical information amongst families. We have also taken a strong stance for the comprehensive medical and genetic testing of donors and the ending of donor anonymity.

By contrast, most sperm banks have been chronically resistant to any move towards acknowledging kinship — some (including Fairfax and CLI) actually withhold from donors their own donor numbers, thereby making it much more difficult for donors who do wish to establish contact, even just to share and update and share crucial medical information with families on the DSR. The sperm banks have also ignored or opposed calls for other much-needed reforms, e.g. more accurate, up-to-date record keeping; allowing donors and families to make mutual consent contact before a child is 18; updating and sharing of all medical and genetic information; initiating comprehensive medical and genetic testing of donors; accurately tracking donors and the children being born; and placing limits on the numbers of children created from any one donor.

The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has taken a very strong stand against regulation and has argued that there is “no scientific evidence to support a cap at ten children per donor”. The 9/2012 ASRM’s Mental Health Professional Group (MHPG) Newsletter lists sponsorship by three sperm banks, Fairfax, Xytex and California Cryobank. (Fairfax and Xytex continue to have the largest number of very large half-sibling groups on the DSR). It seems to me that for the MHPG to accept funding from parties with a commercial interest in maintaining the status quo could give rise to the appearance of a conflict of interest, and raise questions as to whether MHPG policies, recommendations or guidelines are in fact influenced by the interests of their sponsors. Can they fulfill their mission statement (“…to promote scientific understanding of the psychological, social, and emotional perspectives of infertility patients”) with this type of sponsorship?