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Shortage of donors at sperm bank clinics

An investigation today revealed that there is a “crisis” over lack of donors at sperm bank clinics. According to the BBC, with some of the clinics being totally out of stock//, women and couples wanting to have children were facing a major problem.

In 1990s, the highest number of donors was 459. Ever since, the number had been decreasing. To make it worse, last year a new law was passed that gave kids the right to know the identity of their donor father at the age of 18.

The BBC got in touch with all 84 NHS and private fertility clinics and the 1 sperm bank in the UK and received 74 responses. Nearly, 70% (50 clinics) were getting no sperm or had lot of problem in getting it, of late. The sperm bank had a supply, but revealed that there was a decrease in the number of donors. According to the investigation, in general 90% of all the donors went to only 10 clinics.

Allan Pacey, head of andrology at the University of Sheffield and secretary of the British Fertility Society, said there was a catastrophe.
He added: "If there aren't enough men who are willing to donate and be identified... and we don't have the ability to import sperm from other countries because the regulations are too tough, then we are not going to be able to treat patients that require donor sperm treatments. "Sadly, some will go without and sadly that may be the end of donor treatments as we have known it. "I think we are certainly in a crisis at the moment. Most of the clinics are finding it very difficult to get enough sperm to treat their patients."

Dr Pacey said patients were left in a inconsolable situation. "If they are unable to get treatment in their local clinic, then they are looking to other sources," he added. "Some are getting flights to other European countries, others may turn to Internet sites that are providing sperm for home insemination. There are signs of desperation and I thoroughly understand them."

Out of every 100 d onors, the sperms of only 5 will be accepted after the procedure of testing and selection.

Following is the data from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) about the number of men registered to be donors in the past few years: 325 men in 2000, 328 in 2001, 278 in 2002, 255 in 2003 and 248 in 2004. The data for 2005 will be released later this year.

A spokesman for the HFEA said: "There had been a steady downward trend in donors since the late 1990s long before changes to the anonymity law were discussed. The HFEA highlighted the problem in June and urged clinics to do more to recruit donors."

Dr Mark Hamilton, chair of the British Fertility Society, said: "The British Fertility Society is well aware of the difficulties many patients throughout the country are experiencing in accessing gamete donation services, in particular donor insemination treatment.

"A working party has been convened by the society to examine the situation and will shortly be making recommendations to the Department of Health.

"Provision of such services requires significant resources to attract, recruit, screen, and counsel prospective donors. The survey reinforces our own findings that many clinics are now finding it impossible to provide these services.

"One solution may be the development of a nationally co-ordinated donor recruitment service, managed through a number of adequately resourced recruitment centres, to meet the urgent needs of our patients, many of whom remain distressed by yet another example of postcode variation in quality and availability of fertility services throughout the country."

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