Sperm banks used to make promises of anonymity to donors. But new consumer genetic testing technology is rendering those promises empty.
Here’s what that means for the ethics and practicality of sperm donation in the US. One horrifying aspect I didn’t mention: what happens when half-siblings hook up, not knowing they share an anonymous sperm donor dad?
More info in this STAT news article.
What’s up everybody? It’s your boy Z-Dog MD. Why am I wearing a black shirt with little sperms on them? There’s a reason, we’re talking about sperm donation today. I know! It sounds dope doesn’t it? Well a lot of people hae had some trouble with this and this is the trouble. It used to be that sperm donation, which was often done for male infertility, which it turns out is fifty percent of all infertility, it was so stigmatized that they had to, the sperm donation companies, had to promise that it was all anonymous and it was often done in a, kind of, secret shameful way. You get a sperm donor and you don’t tell the kids that they have a sperm donor daddy and all of this. So in the old days, these companies would promise that if you donate sperm we’ll pay you a little money, usually you’re a college kid or graduate student like my friend, we’ll call him John, because that might have been his real name, I don’t know. He was on Oprah talking about this. He was a medical student, blonde, six-foot-something, engineer, super smart guy, decides I can make a little extra money and fulfill my Darwininan requirement to reproduce as much as I can by donating sperm and it’s going to be anonymous.
So he would tell me, hey man it’s great, I get to reproduce, I make a little money, I get to masturbate for cash, which you know, normally isn’t okay but now it’s okay, and I’m helping people have babies who couldn’t have babies. This is great and the best part of it is these kids will never find me. Fast forward to the current era where pretty much everyone has done some kind of genetic testing whether its 23andme or ancestry.com and the kids of these sperm donors are now getting woke and realizing oh it says I have a first-degree parental relative who lives in Peoria, wait a minute. And they are starting to find their sperm donors. So the assurances that the company has made that this was anonymous are now starting to fall apart. Not only are they finding their parents, their fathers, they are finding siblings, half-siblings around the country. So my friend, we’ll call him John that may or may not be his real name, ended up going on Oprah because about twenty of his kids found him. And now this is the difference. He grew up at some point and he realized, wow these kids are now eighteen and older and wow this kid is just like me, and this kid is just like me, and this kids a little like me mixed with something else, and oh my gosh. And for some reason at that point his heart opened up and he wanted these people in his life and now they all kind of meet and connect and share ideas and stories and some family history stuff that can be medically relevant. And so, for him it was actually a beautiful thing if you sign-up for it, which he didn’t. So the question now is, what are we going to do? You can’t actually keep people anonymous anymore but many men won’t donate unless they’re anonymous. So in Europe, where it’s illegal to donate anonymously they have a sperm shortage. What, Tom? A shortage of sperm?
I can find sperm on the internet. You want sperm I’ve got you sperm. Black markets for sperm actually pop-up. But the question is, maybe we ought to change the framework on this because now it isn’t just heterosexual couples there are lesbian couples, gay couples looking for sperm donors and this is a way to help people have a family. You can now maybe sign a document that says look I’m not legally responsible for these kids but when they turn eighteen it’s okay if they find me, I’d be happy to be a resource or connect, but obviously I don’t want to be your daddy that way. Okay, I like you but I don’t like like you. And that would help people, I think, a lot. It would help get the right kinds of donors, it would help destigmatise infertility and it would help really come to terms with the fact that there’s no way around it, there’s no more anonymity. But you guys don’t think about sperm donation on the daily, I hope this video has gotten you woke to the joys of sperm. And, hit share, become a supporter. Tell us in the comments if you’ve had experience with this and what do you think Tom?
– We’re taking a flight to Zurich they need us over there Z.
– I go where I’m needed Tom. Right now, I’m thinking Zurich. Bring the extra Kleenex and the Vaseline. All right, Buddy, we’re out.