Traditionally the criteria for selecting a sperm donor generally were good looks, height, education, athletic ability and a whole host of others that an individual might desire. Modern technology like online registries and DNA tests have added a new criterion for some; how many children has this donor produced. Sperm donation in the U. S. is largely unregulated although there are voluntary guidelines from the specialty organizations. According to an article in the Washington Post the guidelines usually recommend 25 offspring per population of 800,000 to prevent intermarriage between half siblings.
What has changed are mail-away DNA tests and a proliferation of online registries; people conceived with donated sperm and eggs are increasingly connecting with their genetic relatives, forming a growing community with complex relationships and unique concerns about the U.S. fertility industry. Many have discovered dozens of donor siblings, with one group approaching 200 members — enormous genetic families without precedent in modern society.
Because most donations are anonymous, the resulting children often find it almost impossible to obtain crucial information. Medical journals have documented cases in which clusters of offspring have found each other while seeking treatment for the same rare genetic disease. The news is full of nightmarish headlines about sperm donors who falsified their educational backgrounds, hid illnesses or turned out to be someone other than expected — such as a fertility clinic doctor.
Now the donor-conceived community is starting to demand more government regulation — so far with mixed results. Earlier this year, Washington and Vermont became the first states to require clinics to collect donors’ medical history and to disclose that information to any resulting child. Similar bills have been introduced in California and Rhode Island.
But last month, the Food and Drug Administration rejected a petition from a donor offspring group that sought to limit the number of births per donor, mandate reporting of donor-conceived births and require donors to provide post-conception medical updates.
In the meantime if you need a sperm donor what do you do? You need to rely on your physician to recommend a legitimate sperm bank that takes all possible measures to confirm the donor’s personal and medical history and tracks and limits successful births. The other option is to only accept an open donation but this may have the disadvantage of having the donor part of yours and your child’s life. For some that might be considered an advantage.