Page URL:

Donor Family Limit

This policy document is the third part of a response submitted by the Progress Educational Trust (PET) to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's Consultation Donating Sperm and Eggs: Have Your Say.

1. What do you think should be the maximum number of families that can be created using one donor's sperm or eggs?

The maximum number of families that can be created using one donor's sperm or eggs should be 20. This number is derived from the 2008 'Report and Recommendations' of the British Fertility Society's Working Party on Sperm Donation Services in the UK.

An argument that is often used to support a low donor family limit is the risk of an individual's gametes being donated to someone who is, unbeknownst to either party, a genetic relative. However, a distinction should be made here between inadvertent consanguinity as a problem in itself, and the morbidity of any inadvertently consanguineous offspring. Contrary to popular belief, consanguinity does not always or inexorably lead to morbidity. There is a valid argument that some risk of inadvertent consanguinity due to donor conception is tolerable and should be countenanced.

However, while we believe that the donor family limit could be and should be increased, we also believe that it is misleading to ascribe the current shortage of donor gametes to the donor family limit. At an HFEA meeting on 8 September 2010, it was noted that 'although most sperm donors consent to the maximum limit of 10 families, the average donor produces only 1.5 families, or 1.8 children'.

The reasons for this disjuncture - between the number of families donors consent to being created with their gametes, and the number of families actually created - need to be investigated and addressed as a matter of urgency. One possible reason is a mistaken assumption, when managing the use of donor sperm, that each use constitutes a successful pregnancy.

2. Do you think any of the family limit options would have a disproportionate effect on any groups of people on the basis of their age, disability, ethnicity or race, religion, gender or sexual orientation?

Those religions that have traditionally made a virtue of fecundity have also tended to disparage assisted conception. If in future greater numbers of families are made using gametes from a single donor, it is difficult to tell whether - from such a religious perspective - the perceived merits of the situation would outweigh the perceived demerits.