Sperm Donors:
Perspectives From all Those Involved
By
Nadja Brunson
English 111
Mrs. Erskine
14 December 2014
Nadja Brunson
English 111
December 14, 2014
Sperm Donors: Perspectives from all Parties Involved
Anonymously donating sperm, can lead to issues because offspring are unaware of
important genetic origin within the biological family. Offspring will eventually wish to learn
more about their genetic history. Donors often wish to stay anonymous though offspring may
desire to discover the identity of their donor parent.
The concept of artificially donating sperm is often seen as a modern medicine. However,
the process dates back as far as the 1790’s. This is when Dr. John Hunter had artificially
inseminated a woman. After this success, physicians were performing this procedure with
discretion. The procedure was not publically known until 1954. It was greeted with
controversy. The idea of using another man’s sperm to inseminate another’s wife was
scandalous (Sonia Fader). This notion was not accepted until 1964, when Georgia was the first
state to pass a statute legitimizing children conceived by artificial insemination (Fader). Many
sperm banks opened soon after. This helps couples around the world conceive a child when one
of them is sterile.
The science of this procedure has been developed and practiced over many years to
help infertile people conceive. The men provide a sample either at the sperm bank’s facility or
with an overnight collection kit. Once it is collected the donation, is tested for many diseases.
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After it is screened for any complications, the specimen is frozen. Scientists discovered a
technique for freezing semen with glycerol, this proved less likely to harm the sperm. (California
Cryobank). Jerome K. Sherman studied cryobiology; the study of cells at freezing temperatures.
He had taken earlier procedures and perfected the method of freezing and unfreezing sperm
(California Cryobank). Semen samples are prepared with a type of solution that will help
preserve the sperm sample during the freezing and thawing process. The sample are sealed in
vials and are slowly frozen in liquid nitrogen vapor at a temperature of 196 degrees Celsius
(Fairfax Cryobank). After thawing, the samples are tested again in order to meet a certain
standard and then placed inside a woman’s uterus. The process seems simple enough, but
donors have to meet certain requirements before they can donate.
Rules and regulations for donating sperm have come a long way. Today, sperm donors
must be between the ages of 20 and 39 years of age. Possible donors must be able to work in
the United States legally and provide a medical history for both sides of their family (Sperm
Bank of California). The Sperm Bank of California, require potential donors to fill out their
online application and set up an appointment. The specimen the donors provide must be tested
for STD’s and genetic diseases. The donors are also required to write a personal narrative and
provide a baby photograph. They must also have a medical exam and meet with many of the
Sperm Bank of California’s health workers. These donors will then sign a contract that states
that they will commit themselves to their program for about a year, for each sample they
provide they will be paid. Every quarter the donors are required to have an STD, urine and
blood tests performed on them. Legally, these donors must understand that they are not the
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legal fathers to any offspring they father. They will have no financial responsibilities to these
children and they have no parental rights. Finally donors sign a contract ensuring their privacy.
Donors have many reasons to donate. Many males donate in order to secure their
future in reproducing. Many reasons include gender reassignment, cancer treatments,
vasectomies or a low sperm count. Men with high risk jobs also donate sperm in the just in
case. Donors also donate just to give couples a chance to conceive when they are unable to.
Men also donate sperm for financial reasons, at some point in time donating sperm was very
popular amongst college students who needed to earn money. Kirk Maxey was one of the most
generous of donors, and has calculated that he has possibly had over a hundred children
(Martin Bashir). Maxey started donating sperm in the 1980’s where the medical screening of
potential donors was simple. Maxey stated that all he had to do was sign a quarter page legal
paper saying that he’d be kept anonymous. This is not always the case with donating sperm.
Unlike the time period Maxey donated sperm in, today sperm donors are given the choice of
“open identity.” This is for sperm donors who are willing to have their information released to
the adult offspring (Human Reproduction). Donors who choose anonymity over this option may
not want to have any connections to their offspring in the future.
Parents are given a choice. They can choose the race of their donor, and virtually any
donor that could benefit their offspring. They are sometimes provided with baby pictures,
personal narratives, and a background on the donor. More importantly these families can
choose anonymity over open identity donors. Almost no parents regretted open identity, when
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their child wished to learn more about their donor in a mail back questionnaire (Human
Reproduction). Parents who chose open identity did so to avoid not knowing every small detail
about their donor. Parents who chose anonymity feared their child will not love them as they
might feel a stronger connection with their donor.
Donor conceived children often feel like adopted children (Who are you?). Offspring
usually never get the chance to meet their biological parent. Offspring begin to wonder about
their origins as they grow older. They often have questions like, “Why is my hair red or why do I
have blue eyes?” They might even inquire about ethnicities. When children discover they were
donor conceived they must have many questions regarding the subject. What was the
procedure like? How is that possible? The biggest question being who their donor is? Most
offspring who are donor conceived will never get the full picture on who their biological parent
is. They can never find out their biological parent’s background because of anonymity. They will
never be able to contact the donor in any way. Donor children begin to express uneasiness over
their origins, some grapple with the concept from not arising from love and others fear they
harbor an unknown disease (Conception Conundrum). The offspring of the donated sperm
could potentially be at risk because of this. If the sperm or egg donor, learns more about their
medical history the child will not be notified. Anonymity seems to hurt more than benefit
society.
Regulations should be changed in order to ensure the child’s safety from devastation.
For example, right now a donor could discover he has cancer, and not update his medical
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records. In the blink of an eye, that donor conceived child’s own offspring has that same type of
cancer. Rules should be changed in order to help ensure the child and future generations safe.
Some think sperm donations should be kept with open identities, however critics claim that this
change would lead to a steep decrease in donors (Number of Sperm Donors). Though many
donors could potentially argue that they would have to fill the role of “parent”. This may not be
the case. They can still sign over their parental rights with the understanding of both parties
involved.
Anonymity has a various benefits for the donor, but very few for the offspring. Donors
deserve to keep their privacy as it is their right to do so. However, it is not beneficial to the
offspring. Rules and Regulations are as thorough as they can possibly be, but do not have any
on updating their files when new discoveries arise. Parents and offspring deserve to know
everything about their donor before and after the process is completed.
Works Cited
20, 2011 October. "Who Are You? The Ethics and Impact of Donor Conception." PBS. PBS, 20
Oct. 2011. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.
Associated Newspaper. "Sperm and Egg Donors Lose Anonymity." Mail Online. Associated
Newspapers, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.
Bashir, Martin. "Confessions of a Sperm Donor." ABC News. ABC News Network, 31 Aug.
2006. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.
Bhatia, Rajani. "Constructing Gender from the Inside Out." Feminist Studies. Summer 2010:
260. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 05 Dec. 2014.
Bleyer, Jennifer. "A Conception Conundrum." Psychology Today. Nov/Dec 2013: P. 78. SIRS
Issues Researcher. Web. 05 Dec. 2014.
"How to Qualify as a Sperm Donor." How to Qualify as a Sperm Donor. The Sperm Bank of
California, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.
"Human Reproduction." Humrep. Oxford Journals, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.
Kraft, SY. "Who's Your Daddy? Is It Time for Sperm Regulation?" Medical News Today.
MediLexicon International, 7 Sept. 2011. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.
"Number of Sperm Donors." Number of Sperm Donors up following Anonymity Law Changes HFEA Press Releases. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.
O'Brien, Susie. "My Daddy's Name Is DONOR." Herald Sun (Melbourne). 20 Nov. 2012: P.
15. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 05 Dec. 2014.
ProQuest Staff. "At Issue: Anonymous Egg and Sperm Donation." ProQuest LLC. 2014: N.pag.
SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.
"Should Sperm Donors Remain Anonymous?" BBC News. BBC, 26 Jan. 2004. Web. 10 Dec.
2014.
"Sperm Banking History." California Cryobank. Learning Center, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.
Trimarchi, Maria. "Sperm Banks." HowStuffWorks. How Stuff Works, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.
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Anonymously donating sperm