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Online banking for UK sperm donors
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Author Topic: Online banking for UK sperm donors  (Read 4728 times)
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05 September 2016

By Dr Kamal Ahuja


The notion persists that sperm donation in Britain limps ahead in a state of perpetual crisis: difficulties at the much vaunted national sperm bank, imports of donor sperm flooding in from Denmark, and UK donors terrified of disclosing their identity. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

Sperm donors, clearly unfazed by the removal of anonymity a decade ago, are now recognised for their altruistic motivation and adequately compensated for their time and expense. There is no need for a UK fertility patient to source donor sperm from an overseas bank, for despite the perpetuating myths, the UK is now entirely self-sufficient in quality donor sperm from donors readily compliant with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) requirements of traceability.

The myth of crisis only continues to be told based on low and outdated numbers of registered donors recorded by the HFEA (just 586 new registrations in 2013), and long memories in the media of a British Fertility Society report which described the UK's shortage of donor sperm as 'critical'.

The key to reversing this sperm donor 'crisis', as reflected in our experience at the London Sperm Bank, has been the internet and an online business model which we have followed since 2011. Since then, and with the introduction of our online donor catalogue, we have treated more than 3000 infertile women and received enquiries from more than 30,000 men interested in becoming donors.

These 'few good men' are from all walks of life not only IT and finance (the most frequent donors), but also from the building and fashion trades, as well as the armed forces. More than 80 percent of them initiated their enquiry via a mobile phone or tablet.

As a result, we now have more than 30,000 sperm samples in storage and can meet the matching requirements of all women needing donor sperm throughout the UK.

We are now extending the digital approach even further by introducing in July this year a London Sperm Bank mobile app for patients, which allows them to browse our catalogued donor details, including characteristics, donor self-summaries and extended profiles. Patients can also submit their donor preferences through a wish-list, allowing them to receive an immediate alert when a donor meeting their criteria becomes available. After browsing, patients can choose their ideal donor and order sperm, just as they would in any other online transaction. Their chosen sperm is then delivered to a registered clinic of their choice. Already, a large number of women have registered to receive these alerts following consultations at their chosen clinics.

Ordering sperm from an online catalogue or an app does not trivialise treatment, and every step meets the requirements of the HFEA. Donors remain anonymous, and only the details of ethnicity, character and achievement are recorded. Moreover, each vial of stored sperm processed in a HFEA-licensed laboratory fulfils the minimum WHO semen standards, and most specimens contain more than 20 million progressively motile sperm per ml. Indeed, fewer than four percent of our 30,000 potential donor enquiries have met our selection criteria and go on to become donors. At the London Sperm Bank at any give time we now have more than 100 sperm donors available who meet all screening criteria.

Patients are reassured by such compliance, and especially by the traceability of each UK-based donor (again, in accordance with HFEA regulation). But they also appreciate the immediacy and freedom to choose at their leisure, using a model they are familiar with. So far, the London Sperm Bank has been the first to use this model, but it surely will not be the last. Donor recruitment according to the old model of advertising is unlikely to succeed, but by embracing new technologies we have shown that it can thrive and prosper.
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 Does gamete donation need an overhaul?

07 November 2016

By Anthony Bagshawe

Director of Altrui Egg Donors
Appeared in BioNews 876


It is disappointing to read about the closure of the National Sperm Bank (NSB) as its success could have helped many more people have a family using UK-donated sperm (see BioNews 875).

As has been well documented, in the past it has not been easy to recruit either sperm or egg donors in this country. The failure of the NSB may lead people to believe that it is still difficult, and that consequently those needing donated gametes should be referred or encouraged to go abroad for treatment. This would be a great shame for several reasons, not least of which is that there are donors in the UK but also because the UK donation service is probably one of the best regulated in the world.

The NSB is not the only body recruiting sperm donors in the UK. Several licensed treatment centres recruit both sperm and egg donors, with varying degrees of success. As most recruiters will have found, the majority of applicants do not actually end up as donors, yet they all need to be processed, informed and assessed for suitability. This makes donor recruitment an extremely time-consuming process and, sadly, neither easy or cheap.

Gamete donation also requires a significant commitment of time and resolve. Donors need to be committed to the process itself and the logistical arrangements required to complete the course. They must come to understand the emotional and social implications for themselves, their families and any children that might be born from their donation. They also have to be apprised of the legal requirements, particularly concerning the disclosure of identifying information of donors to future children on reaching the age of 18. Given these potential obstacles and difficulties, which they have to manage and overcome to donate successfully, it is not surprising that so many drop out along the way.

As the UK's only independent egg-donor agency that specialises in recruiting altruistic egg donors, we at Altrui have collected a number of statistics that demonstrate the large drop-out rate. Over 6000 women have approached us about donating their eggs since we set up in 2010. We filtered out roughly 15 percent at an early stage, based on medical or genetic issues. A further six percent had too high a BMI and have been put on hold until they lose sufficient weight to go ahead. Finally, another 70 percent fell out for a range of other reasons. The remaining nine percent or so have gone on to donate successfully.

Raising awareness of the great need for altruistic donors in this country might eventually produce another UK sperm or egg bank, but it will require a good deal of joined-up thinking, careful planning and a credible business model to make it viable. Recruiting donors successfully requires dedication, focus, knowledge, understanding and perseverance from a full-time team.

The social, physical and psychological differences of egg and sperm donors must be taken into account when recruiting. We have found that making the overall journey easier for egg donors makes them more inclined to help, and we imagine that this would also be the case for sperm donors. Perhaps, therefore, it is time to review just whether the path for sperm donors is as easy as it could be. For instance, should men be expected to produce so many samples? Are the number of visits required set for their convenience or to make the system financially attractive to the clinics? Should we be exploring whether moderating the number of samples demanded from each donor might lessen the time commitment and result in a lower dropout rate? Perhaps questions need to be asked about what other factors are limiting the number of donors. Given the current tests and technologies available, are there ways which might make the donor experience easier and therefore more appealing?

The closure of the NSB could be a trigger to review whether gamete donation is sufficiently focused on donors to attract enough of them and to seriously review each stage of the donation process. Surely our collective aim is to enable recipients to get an egg or sperm from the UK, rather than seek help from abroad simply because we can't get the UK donation process right for donors?
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