Rachel Lemon, Partner in the Family Department and head of our Modern Families sector, comments:
The Channel 4 documentary aired on Tuesday evening was a shocking insight into the online world of sperm donation.
The programme followed a select group, labelled super sperm donors, who are providing sperm to women, on a door to door delivery basis, without any regulation. These men are advertising their service online and are approached by women, either single, in a same sex relationship or with a male partner who has fertility issues. The donors boasted having created in excess of 60 children.
Sperm donation is no longer uncommon or taboo. The modern family (whether single, same sex or heterosexual), may not exist if it weren’t for donors; in that respect donors are, in my view, generous and kind, so long as their motivations are genuine and truly compassionate.
However, there are some real risks of using a donor in such an unregulated way.
Conception using a sperm donor may result in that donor being the child’s legal father.
The donor may have rights to have a relationship with the child.
From the donor’s perspective, he could be asked to make a financial contribution towards the child’s upbringing.
Without properly carried out screening, the mother and the unborn baby are at risk of STIs and other inherited health problems.
Regulated clinics limit how many families sperm donors are permitted to create. Donors donating outside of a regulated clinic can create many families. That can increase the risk of donor conceived children forming relationships with one another as adults without being aware that they are in fact half siblings. This is a particular risk where online donors may focus on a particular geographic area which may be small.
Having a baby is a powerful urge and some women would do anything to make that happen. However, proper consideration must be given to the above risks.
The following are some factors which will impact important issues such as legal fatherhood:-
Whether the mother to be is married.
Whether a regulated clinic is used.
Whether the donor is known or anonymous.
Before any decision is made to conceive using a donor, legal advice should be sought. Many of the reported cases in this area involve donors and mothers who, relying on trust alone, have not taken legal advice before conception and subsequently wished they had.
Rachel is proud to have her own modern family and can be contacted on 01932 590 500.