The UK Government has announced that the sale of fresh sperm over the Internet is to be banned, following fears over the safety and suitability of the sperm, as raised in a consultation of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act 1990. Internet sites are currently charging those who use the service - many who are single women and lesbians, but also couples who find themselves unable to access donor sperm via more conventional routes - up to £2,000 for fresh sperm delivered by courier to their door to be used in self-insemination.
UK sperm banks and fertility clinics, which store donated sperm, are currently regulated by the HFE Act and Human Tissue Act 2005, which set out rules on the storage and use of donated sperm, but Internet sites who offer this service are not covered by the rules. The regulations stipulate that sperm must be frozen for 6 months, the incubation period of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), before insemination to unsure that it is virus free. The proposed new regulations will ensure that Internet sperm providers will be subject to the same rules as UK sperm banks and clinics. 'We are not happy with the use of fresh sperm. It's good that this loophole will be closed', said Dr. Allan Pacey, secretary of the British Fertility Society, adding that 'there are real safety issues'.
The Department of Health will contact Internet sperm providers to inform them that they have until April 2007 to comply with the law.
There has been a huge increase in demand for fresh sperm over the Internet. Clinics are now finding it difficult to persuade men to donate following Government rules that removed the donors right to anonymity in April 2005. Under the new law, children born from donated sperm have the right to track down their biological fathers once they have turned 18, but the Internet still provides a veil of anonymity which has attracted sperm donors since last year. The UK is facing a severe sperm shortage with sperm banks running dry and clinics having to turn away couples seeking IVF. Some fertility clinics blame the Government's decision to remove anonymity, but the Department of Health has indicated that the law will not be changed and has encouraged clinics to run more successful recruitment campaigns. Meanwhile, many of those seeking IVF are being forced to travel abroad for treatment.
Sources and References
Britain bans Internet sale of fresh sperm
Ban on the sale of 'fresh' sperm over the Internet