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Monday, 26 July, 1999, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Donating eggs and sperm
sperm freeze
Sperm donations are frozen until they are needed
The availability of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatments is dependent on the availability of donated gametes - sperm and eggs.

However, the UK is short of both, and has in the past had to resort to importing from abroad.

While some campaigners feel test tube babies have a right to know the identity of their genetic parents, the thought of identification horrifies others.

Fertility specialists also fear that the prospect of having to take responsibility for a child born as the result of a donation would put the few people who do contribute off donating at all.

How can you donate?

Giving sperm is fairly straightforward - men turn up at a fertility clinic, disappear into a cubicle and make their donation.

Most sperm donors are students, and in particular medical students.

However, the situation is more complex when it comes to eggs.

Women who donate first take a 12- to 14-day course of injections to stimulate egg production before undergoing a 40-minute surgical procedure to collect the eggs.

These donations are made anonymously, and are intended to be purely altruistic.

Egg-sharing is different, and has proved controversial in the past.

Egg sharing is where a woman donates her eggs for use in IVF in return for the same treatment.

The Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates the use of human reproductive material, had been considering a ban following a case where one of the women involved got pregnant while the other did not.

Last December, the authority chose not to ban the procedure - instead it will produce specific guidelines in its next code of practice.

How many times can you donate?

There is no limit on the number of donations as such, but there is a maximum of 10 live births per donor.

What will you get paid?

At the moment, payments for both men and women are pegged at 15, ostensibly to cover expenses.

However, the additional stress to women has led to some specialists to call for an increase in payments - Professor Ian Craft, director of the London Fertility Clinic, suggests 25 for men and 500 for women.

The HFEA says it understands the complexity of the procedure but is reluctant to increase payments in case human reproductive tissue is seen as a commodity.

Egg-sharing is considered by some to constitute payment as the donor receives cut price or free fertility treatment.

How much responsibility do you have to take for your donation?

At the moment, none, provided you make it at a licensed fertility clinic.

In this case, responsibility for the child falls to the social father as it would for a genetic child.

For married men this means they get legal fatherhood and parental responsibility automatically.

For unmarried men, this means that while they get legal fatherhood they have to apply for the right to parental responsibility - the right to make choices on issues such as education and religion.

However, if the donation is made outside a licensed clinic - for example, through home insemination using an implement such as a turkey baster - then the donor is liable for the upkeep of the child.

The Child Support Agency says it will pursue such donors, even if they have no social connection with the child.

See also:

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