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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October, 2003, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
UK considers bulk sperm imports
Sperm sample
Sperm is in short supply
The UK may import sperm from other countries in bulk for IVF procedures.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is considering the option as a way to address a severe shortage of sperm donors in the UK.

Four years ago, the HFEA did allow a Danish sperm bank to export to a Scottish clinic - but this was a special arrangement.

It is thought fewer UK men are donating sperm over fears that their right to anonymity may be scrapped.

Denmark may be a good option as possible source for sperm.

The possibility exists of importing sperm in bulk from abroad to be made available generally to patients in the UK
HFEA
The country has a large sperm bank, and donor details are tightly controlled. Only hair and eye colour, height, blood group and ethnic classification can be revealed.

The shortage of donor sperm in the UK has led to long waits for IVF treatment.

Some couples are having to opt for a donor who does not share their physical characteristics.

The shortage is particularly severe among ethnic groups in particular people with origins on the Asian sub-continent, and in certain geographical areas.

A study carried out in 2000 found 27% of clinics had difficulty in obtaining a sufficient supply of semen.

Since 1991, 55,936 UK patients have been treated by donor insemination, resulting in 13,512 babies.

Importation of sperm to the UK has not previously been allowed because of concerns about quality control standards abroad.

But in a paper discussing possible options for the future, the HFEA writes: "The possibility exists of importing sperm in bulk from abroad to be made available generally to patients in the UK.

"So far the HFEA has not authorised bulk import where donors or foreign centres are paid more than would be permitted in the UK but the possibility of sourcing foreign sperm in bulk could be further explored.

"This is likely to prove valuable option for certain categories of recipient."

An HFEA spokeswoman told BBC News Online: "We are a long way from making a decision, but there is a shortage of donated sperm in the UK, and we are looking at different options to address this."

Professor Mohammed Taranissi, director of the Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre in London, welcomed the idea of importing sperm.

He told BBC News Online: "It's a good idea. There has been a shortage of donor sperm now for some years, and I don't see why this shouldn't happen as lnog as you have quality control procedures in place."




SEE ALSO:
Sperm imported to meet shortage
09 Apr 03  |  Scotland
UK may import sperm
05 Oct 99  |  Health


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