Sperm donors' anonymity could be under threat from DNA test websites

Sperm donors' anonymity could be under threat from DNA test websites

February 20, 2022

Sperm donors’ anonymity could be under threat as men are warned about DNA testing websites that help children get details of blood relatives

  • Companies such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA give details of blood relatives
  • Men who donated sperm decades ago face being contacted by unknown children

Men who donated sperm decades ago face being contacted by unknown children due to DNA testing websites, the fertility regulator has warned.

Companies such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA give details of blood relatives which allow the children of sperm donors to work out who they are.

Julia Chain, head of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, said ‘donor anonymity as we knew it has gone’. Going forward, she said questions have been raised over donors being automatically anonymous to the couples and single women they help.

Companies such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA give details of blood relatives which allow the children of sperm donors to work out who they are

Mrs Chain raised the issue of sperm donor anonymity after the regulator launched a review of fertility law. In a speech to the Fertility 2022 conference, she said: ‘The reality is that donor anonymity as we knew it has gone.

‘It has been overtaken by shifts in social attitudes about fertility treatment and donation, and the growth in affordable direct-to-consumer DNA tests.’

Under a law change, men who have donated sperm since 2005 are only anonymous until any children turn 18. From next year, these men can start being contacted by adult children who can request the donor’s name and address.

Fertility charities are concerned a lack of donors for women who want their child’s biological father to be known to them from the outset is pushing people towards unregulated sperm banks online.

Nina Barnsley, director of the Donor Conception Network, said the new law has changed the type of man involved. ‘Instead of 18-year-old medical students, donors now tend to be slightly older men who are happy to be contacted. Allowing men to be named donors could continue that trend. However, it could make situations more difficult when it comes to setting boundaries over what role the donor plays in the child’s life.’

On the risk from DNA testing sites, Allan Pacey, professor of andrology at the University of Sheffield, said: ‘It’s a classic example of the law not keeping pace with technology and society. Men who donated sperm need to be aware their children could find them.’

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