Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fertility Tourists

I've always said, "Wait long enough and there'll be a market for just about anything."

It seems there's been an increasing concern about privacy rights for IVF donor participants in the U.K. lately:

The law, which took effect on April 1, 2005, gives donor-conceived children the right to trace their biological parents when they reach 18. The Government said that children’s rights to discover their genetic origins outweighed donors’ right to privacy. Many doctors, however, predicted that this would worsen an existing shortage of sperm and eggs, because donors would worry about being approached later in life.

Most clinics now have waiting lists of at least two years for sperm, and a similar trend is affecting egg donation. Although altruistic donation, which is usually done by sisters or friends for a patient’s exclusive use, has remained static, the egg-sharing schemes that help couples without a known donor are in trouble. Shared eggs were used in only 680 fertility procedures in 2006, compared with 1,142 in 2004, the last year before the law was changed.

It's hard to know what the correct solution to the shortage is. (Insert joke here). On the one hand, I can certainly understand a child's wish to know their genetic heritage, if only for the sake of their own health and health care planning, and that of their own future children. Many insurance companies will hound patients for their family medical history, and IVF children from anonymous donors have no such information available, and potentially have no idea of the genetic risks they face.

On the other hand, I can also understand that those who donate eggs or sperm have entered into this with an expectation of anonymity, and in most cases have donated for altruistic reasons. However, as the article points out:

Fewer donors are contributing to sperm banks, from which the donation can be used by up to ten women.

That's right: one donation can potentially be used to produce ten children. And one can see how ten strangers showing up over the years asking for your medical records could be seen as a bit of an imposition on privacy.

Yet I would think that there are other ways to address the issue of medical history. Perhaps the donors could be made to fill out a complete medical history that could be disseminated to each child of a donation--sans donor name--by the IVF clinic on a case by case basis, as requested by donor children. They would get their medical history, the donor keeps their privacy.

“The picture at the coal face is bleak,” she (Dr. Gillian Lockwood) said.
“A significant number of patients are now being turned into fertility tourists,
who are going abroad for donor treatment.”

I guess it's time to set up shop. The things I do out of pure altruism. I tell ya.

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