Recently I’ve been writing and thinking about the problem of male sperm providers ending up with too many off-spring. This has been in the news quite a bit, with a couple of particularly high profile instances featured. I’ve talked a bit about what worries people about the too-many-offspring problem (some of this is continued in the comments) and speculated about whether ensuring that everyone had accurate information (which is what I meant by transparency) would help.
I like the idea of using transparency to try to solve the too-many-offspring problem. It’s not that I necessarily oppose regulation, it’s more that it is somewhat hard for me to see how it works. And the more it requires some substantial bureaucracy to operate, the less likely it is to be put in place, I think.
I’ve had this other thought I wanted to toss into the hopper. Why do men like Ben Seisler sell sperm dozens, scores or even hundreds of times? I think it’s for the money. This is consistent with the observation offered by Professor Almeling that the general pitch to male gamete providers is as a commercial activity. (I wrote about this, too, not so long ago.)
(As an aside, check out this paper: Sperm and egg donors’ experiences
of donating and of being contacted by their donor offspring. Human Reproduction, Vol.26, No.3 pp. 638–645, 2011, (2011). Tabitha
Freeman, Vasanti Jadva, Wendy Kramer and Susan Golombok. Table III shows the number of donations per donor and I’m not sure which is more striking–that more than 10% are in the over 250 times category or that more than half are in the 51+ category.)
It makes sense that if men give sperm to make money they’d be inclined to give more and more. But perhaps this would not be the case if the pitch to men were an altruistic one. This is the approach taken by the London clinic I wrote about a while back. Of course the men are still paid, and so the logic (more donations=more money) would still hold. But if men thought about the larger project at issue–if they thought about creating a child–perhaps they would be less willing to become sire to scores of children. (It appears that the men who end up in this position haven’t really anticipated it.)
(Another aside: Table IV shows the reasons why men and women became gamete donors and in shows a balance between altruism and financial gain. But here I wonder if the sample source–men who have sought out the Donor Sibling Registry–skews the result. I suppose that is a good question to raise in all cases.)
Anyway, it makes a certain amount of sense (at least to me) that a more altruistic approach to potential male gamete providers might help a bit with the too-many-offspring problem. Remember that the London Sperm Bank says it changes the demographics of the provider pool.
I don’t contend this would solve the too-many-offspring problem, only that it is another non-regulatory step that might help some. Food for thought, in any event.