What are the laws for sperm donation in the UK?

Sabrina Barr

A recent report published in the Journal of Medical Ethics has argued that doctors should be able to take sperm from men who have passed away if they have consented to becoming post-mortem donors.

The authors state that doing so is “both feasible and morally permissible”, as it may help to ensure that “sufficient quantities of sperm“ are made available to individuals who wish to become parents through sperm donation.

So where does the law in the UK currently stand with regards to sperm donation? Here is everything you need to know.

Who is eligible to donate sperm?

According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), sperm donors are usually aged between 18 and 41.

However, the organisation outlines that a fertility clinic may allow an individual over the age of 41 to donate sperm if they believe their donation has a low risk of resulting in serious health consequences.

“You’ll also need to have various health tests for diseases like HIV and Hepatitis, which can take up to six months,” the HFEA states.

These are the only two specifications the public body outlines regarding eligible donors.

How many times can a person’s donated sperm be used?

In the UK, one person’s sperm donation can be used among a maximum of 10 families, says HFEA.

There is no set limit to the number of children who can be born among each family, and donors can decide to lower their limit for donations to families.

In October 2019, it was reported that a doctor from Portland, Oregon was suing his medical school after discovering the sperm he donated 30 years prior had been used to conceive 17 children.

Dr Bryce Cleary filed a $5.25m (£4m) lawsuit against Oregon Health and Science University for allegedly breaking an agreement that outlined he would father five children at most.

Can sperm donors receive payment?

In the UK, it is illegal for sperm donors to receive payment for their donations.

They are allowed to receive a maximum of £35 for each clinic visit to cover their expenses.

They may claim a higher sum if their expenses for travel, accommodation or childcare surpasses this sum.

“If you’re not a permanent resident of the UK, you may be compensated in the same way as a UK sperm donor but you won’t be able to claim any overseas travel expenses,” the HFEA adds.

If a child is born from donated sperm, what legal rights does the donor have?

There are several routes a person can go down in order to become a sperm donor.

For example, a person can make a sperm donation to a stranger at a fertility clinic, or can opt to donate as part of a private arrangement with the woman who is to give birth.

There are different legal stipulations for each route, the HFEA outlines.

If fertility treatment using a sperm donation is carried out at a licensed fertility clinic in the UK, the sperm donor will have no legal obligation to any child born as a result.

Furthermore, their name will not be included on the child’s birth certificate and they will not be obligated to provide any financial assistance throughout their childhood.

However, if fertility treatment using a sperm donation is not conducted within a licensed fertility clinic, there is a possibility the sperm donor may be considered a legal parent.

For more information about the laws regarding the various routes sperm donation, click here.

At what point can a sperm donor change their mind?

Before fertility treatment using a sperm donation is carried out, the donor is required to give their consent regarding how their personal information may be used and how long their sperm will be stored for.

“Your clinic has a responsibility to ensure you completely understand your treatment and the implications of your decisions. They should also offer you counselling before you give your consent,” the HFEA says.

When a person has given consent for their sperm to be donated, they may assume that this means they cannot legally back out of the process should they wish to.

Nevertheless, this isn’t necessarily the case, as people may withdraw their consent for their sperm donation as long as it hasn’t already been used as part of a fertility treatment.

“Even if you’ve already created an embryo, you can withdraw your consent at any point up until it’s transferred to the womb,” explains the HFEA.

For more information about providing consent for sperm donation, click here.

Can children born from donated sperm request personal information about the donor?

In April 2005, the law was changed in the UK regarding the release of the sperm donor’s personal information to any children their donation may be used to conceive.

The legislation currently dictates that for all sperm donations made after 1 April 2005, any conceived children can request to find out personal information about the sperm donor from the ages of 16 and 18.

From 16 years old, a conceived child can request information including a description of the donor’s appearance, their ethnicity, their marital status and their family medical history.

From 18 years old, a conceived child can request to find out the donor’s full name and their most recent home address.

Children conceived from sperm donations made between 1 August 1991 and 31 March 2005 can also request to find out some information about the donor.

However, if they have chosen to remain anonymous, their identity will not be revealed.

For more information about how children conceived by sperm donation are able to discover the personal information of their donors, click here.

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