Giving: The Gamete Donor Perspective

Progress Educational Trust
Ground Floor, Bartlett School of Architecture, Royal Ear Hospital, University College London, Capper Street, London WC1E 6AP
12 December 2012
This public event was organised by the Progress Educational Trust (PET) at University College London's Bartlett School of Architecture, and was supported by the Wellcome Trust. The event marked the launch of the PET project 'When It Takes More Than Two' (which continued with the succeeding events 'Receiving: The Recipient Parent Perspective' and 'Being: The Donor-Conceived Perspective').
A podcast produced by James Brooks, in which he interviews panel speaker Dr Allan Pacey about the themes of the event, can be listened to using the player below or alternatively can be downloaded by clicking here (.mp3 5.46MB).
A synopsis of the event proceedings by Antony Blackburn-Starza can be found on PET's BioNews publication here.
The event focused on the perspective of the sperm or egg donor, and saw a panel of experts debate questions including the following.
What motivates someone to become a sperm or egg donor, and how has this changed since the 2005 removal of entitlement to donor anonymity in the UK? What does becoming a donor actually entail? What leads some people to become 'known' donors, whose identity is known to the recipient (and sometimes the donor-conceived child) from the outset?
What are the scenarios and mechanisms whereby a donor can be contacted by their genetic offspring? Is it fair that donor-conceived people and their families are entitled to learn more about donors than donors and their families are entitled to learn about donor-conceived people?
How do fertility clinics and sperm banks go about collecting information from donors? Is this process between consistent between different centres? What factors influence how donors describe themselves to the clinic, to the recipients of their gametes, and to their genetic offspring?
Is it legitimate for a donor to place conditions upon the use of their sperm or eggs (for example, for a sperm donor to specify that his sperm should not be used by a lesbian) as is currently permitted in UK fertility law? Does fertility law in this area conflict with equality law? If a donor places such conditions, does this indicate that they are of poor character because they are prejudiced, or that they are of good character because they have thought their donation through?
What criteria are used to screen donors for their physiological and psychological health? Are these criteria (which, in the case of sperm, preclude four out of every five would-be donors from donating) too strict or too relaxed, too rigid or too flexible? Do they accommodate the subtleties of heredity (for example polygenic or multifactorial inheritance, variable penetrance, and epigenetics) and the fact that risk has a subjective as well as an objective component?

Kriss Fearon
Egg donor, and Trustee at the National Gamete Donation Trust
Dr Lucy Frith
Senior Lecturer in Bioethics and Social Science and Director of Programmes in Healthcare Ethics at the University of Liverpool
Dr Allan Pacey
Chair of the British Fertility Society, and Senior Lecturer in Andrology at the University of Sheffield's Medical School
Venessa Smith
Donor Services Coordinator and Deputy Quality Assurance Coordinator at the London Women's Clinic and the London Sperm Bank
Erika Tranfield
Director and Cofounder of Pride Angel

Rosamund Scott
Professor of Medical Law and Ethics at King's College London's Dickson Poon School of Law

  Case studies:
Altruism was not my main motivation: Ben's story
I wanted to leave a legacy after my partner and I realised we couldn't conceive: Henry's story

  Partners and supporters:
  Wellcome Trust