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Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
Sperm donors 'want to keep anonymity'
Swedes Fredrik and Marlin Linder are having fertility treatment in Denmark
Some couples want donors to stay anonymous

Sperm donors in the UK want to retain the right to anonymity, and would stop donating if the rules were changed, a BBC survey has shown.

The government is expected to reveal next year if it wants to change the law to allow children born through donor insemination to identify their biological father.

In Sweden, where donors can be identified, couples are becoming "fertility tourists", and heading to countries which have retained anonymity for treatment.

A law was introduced there in 1985 to give the children of donor insemination the right to identify their biological father.


Men donating at moment would feel differently if anonymity was not assured

Ann Furedi, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority
Couples now travel to Denmark, where donors are still anonymous, because there is a shortage of donors at home - and because they want to avoid the Swedish law.

The BBC surveyed 82 donors in three sperm banks.

Fifty-three said they would be against changing the law and would not continue to donate if their anonymity was lifted.

Doctors are divided over the idea. Some argue it is the child's right to know basic details about their father.

But others worry couples will have less choice over the type of donor they accept - and that others will be forced to travel overseas to avoid the law.

'Fertility tourists'

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates British fertility centres, has just finished a consultation exercise over lifting anonymity.

Its spokesperson, Ann Furedi, believes it is in the best interest of children for them to know more about their biological father, particularly with the growing importance of genetics in medicine.

But she said she was not surprised by the survey results.

Dr Peter Lundstrom: says Swedish couples who wanted anonymity go abroad
Dr Peter Lundstrom: says Swedish couples who wanted anonymity go abroad
"Men donating at moment would feel differently if anonymity was not assured.

"What we don't know is whether a different kind of bloke would want to donate if their details were made available to future generations "

The law change in Sweden will not come into force until next year, when the first children born after it was made, reach the age of 18.

But the change in legislation has led to hundreds of couples choosing to become "fertility tourists".

'One father'

Fredrik and Marlin Linder from Malmo are both hoping for a child. But they have to use artificial insemination using donated sperm because Fredrik is infertile.

The couple are now travelling to Denmark for treatment because they do not want to know who the donor father is.

Marlin told the BBC: "Since we only want there to be one father and not two possible fathers, that's why we chose to go to Denmark.

Fredrik added: "We are concerned this will be problematic for child to have one social father which would be me and one biological father who would be some unknown person."

Dr Peter Lundstrom was working at the Fertility Clinic IVF in Copenhagen when the law changed.

Almost immediately, he noticed an increase in business from Swedish couples - partly because they were having difficulty in finding sperm donors in their native country.

He told the BBC: "What happened was Swedish donors disappeared. There were very few left who wanted to be active.

"Swedish people had to go somewhere else as they had no donors and they did not want this non anonymity thing - so they went to Denmark."

Last year, Dr Lundstrom's clinic inseminated 68 women, 26 of whom were from Sweden.

Across Denmark last year 336 Swedish women were given donor insemination, which resulted in 81 pregnancies - 30 pregnancies more than in Sweden.

Support for change

In Britain, David Gollancz was one of the first generation to be conceived through artificial insemination.

He has never been able to trace his biological father, although he tracked down his biological half-brother in America.

He believes a change in the legislation is long overdue.

"I think my own experience of finding two half siblings through dna matching has put a human face to that belief.

"Because I know how good it feels to find people who whom you have a biological connection."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Matthew Hill
"Soon couples will have far less choice"
See also:

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