One More Thought About Transparency

I’ve been thinking about an earlier post I wrote.   It’s the one before the last one–where I speculated about whether transparency might help alleviate the problem of men with too many offspring.   What I was thinking is that not many consumers of third-party sperm would really want to have sperm from a man with scores of offspring.   Of course, that’s really an assumption that says something about my personal inclinations, I suspect.

Anyway, I have an additional thought to add.   It seems to me the reasons people wouldn’t want sperm from these men might fall into two categories.  First, there are concerns about unintentional incest–the possibility that people who do not realize they are genetically linked might end up having children together.   This is a specific concern that can probably be assessed by some good statistical analysis with an underlying foundation in genetics.

But there’s a second reason that people might shun a provider who had scores of offspring.  It might just feel too weird or creepy or otherwise undesirable.   Though I may not be articulating it well, I can certainly understand this reason.   And I’m not convinced that it is subject to any sort of scientific or mathematical analysis.  It’s a preference, and though it may not be a rational one, it is one which I suspect is likely to be widespread and deeply held.

I think it is useful to be clear that there are too different reasons at work here for a couple of reasons.   For instance, given the nature of the accidental incest concern, this is a place where a professional organization like the ASRM might usefully weigh in.   Information from professionals like those in the ASRM would be helpful to people making these decisions–assuming it was reliable and trustworthy and that people felt that the source was credible.

But the ASRM and similar organizations cannot address the second concern noted above.   Indeed, I’m not sure anything can express that concern.   But surely it would motivate people to act in selecting a sperm provider just as much as the first one would–assuming of course, people have the information they need to make these decisions.

Small points, I know, but I wanted to add them.


6 responses to “One More Thought About Transparency

  1. More information definitely helps. Women probably don’t want a donor that is overused, but some might choose a popular donor because it has a proven track record. Many births might also be a sign of women simply completing their families with the same donor, wanting 2, 3 or more children.

    If some donors are overused, sperm banks need to increase the number of quality donors. Banks should not be passive – they should actively look for good donors. I do not think there should be a hard cap on donor conceptions. That is totalitarian. It infringes on reproductive rights. A donor having 150 kids does not bother me too much. I worry about the donor having genetic issues, like a hole in his heart, though. As demand grows and technology improves, sperm banks, responding to consumer demands, will go to much greater lengths to ensure donors are free of genetic problems.

    Overall, government over-regulation is a much more imminent threat. Because of over regulation, Canada now has only 1 sperm bank. 39 closed. Not because of lack of demand, but because of lack of donors. Britain has a similar donor crisis due to over regulation. Once government imposes these regulations, they are difficult to remove. Changing these laws takes a long time, time women looking to start a family do not have.

    Also, I strongly believe everything should remain private and for profit. This will allow the industry to grow in size, innovate, and adapt quickly. Sperm banks will invest in genetic screening technology, perhaps even becoming leaders/innovators in the field themselves. We want a vibrant sperm bank industry, with lots of donors, lots of choices, low prices, and high quality.

  2. The donor-conceived are the people most directly affected by all this, and they have to live with the consequences the longest. They seem to be overwhelmingly against anonymity, secrecy in donor conception, and the commercialization of gamete “donation”.

    We’re going over old ground again, but I don’t think the UK does have a “donor crisis” btw. Since the ending of donor anonymity, the numbers have gone up four years in a row. There’s plenty of donor sperm available for people who are willing to pay for their own treatment.

    • Last point first–I’ve written a few times about the sperm shortage in the UK.
      On the one hand, there are more donors now than there were, so that’s not the problem, nor can the change in law be blamed. On the other, it does seem clear that there isn’t enough sperm for all who want it. (Though maybe what I have read is only about subsidized sperm–which would explain the “pay for own treatment” qualification?) It’s quite possible to have more donors but not enough sperm, of cousre, and so I suspect the explanation lies down the lines discussed in that post. And the story about the London Sperm Bank (earlier post) suggests a counter trend anyway.

      Back to first point. Perhaps the donor-conceieved are the most directly affected, but I’m not sure I agree with the conclusions about what they want. Those who are unhappy and want change are certainly more visible than those who do not, but that seems pretty logical without regard to numbers. There’s a string of assertions here and I would be surprised if levels of support are the same. In particular, I’d guess that more are against anonymity than are against commercialization–though “commercialization” is a tricky word. What exacly does that mean?

  3. What if it were totally transparent and every child had to know and be known by the persons who donated their genetic material as well as all their immediate relatives to replicate the narmal level of knowledge a child would have had the progenator taken responsibility for raising their own offspring. And what if, to obtain donated gametes people had to agree to know and be known to all the siblings of the child they are raising. The clinic coul publish a year book with photos and updates on all the children produced by each donor contracted by the clinic.

    • I won’t go with the “know and be known” idea. For many people that would defeat the entire point of using third-party gametes to create their own families. I know that would be fine with you, but it isn’t fine with me. And given the signifigance (or lack thereof) I attach to offering the gametes, it doesn’t serve any purpose valuable enough to offset that cost. (I know you see it differently.) I’m content to (at most) just have the information available.

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