A woman has called for legal changes to prevent a man from
donating his sperm without his wife's consent.
The un-named woman wrote to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology
Authority (HFEA) after finding that her husband had donated his sperm while suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after the
birth of their son. She argued that sperm should be treated as a marital asset
and should not be donated without her permission.
In her letter, she expressed her concerns that the sperm may
already have been used to father children who upon reaching the age of 18 would
have a legal right to trace their biological father.
If this were to happen, she wrote, 'there is then a huge emotional
debt I would owe the child. I would not feel that I could push them away. It is
something I would need to explain to our son'.
Fertility clinics are currently required by law to offer
counselling to potential donors to discuss their donation before it takes place.
There is no obligation for clinics to establish the opinion of the donor's wife,
although some counsellors may suggest that men discuss the subject with their
Once given, consent may still be withdrawn before the sperm
In a comment in the Daily Mail, Peter Lloyd, a men's
rights activist, has described the idea that a wife's consent be required for
sperm donation as 'sexist and absurd'.
But Dr Gulam Bahadur, a former HFEA member and
specialist in men's health at Homerton University Hospital in London said: 'At
the moment the person from whose body the sperm comes has total say over its
use, but if this use impacts on the wife's family life, the situation is not
cut and dried'.
The Daily Mail reports the woman has contacted Diane Blood,
who won a legal battle in 1997 to use her late husband's sperm to conceive. Mrs
Blood told the newspaper: 'There needs to be a public discussion about the
matter. When fighting my own case I quoted the marriage vows which say "All
that I am is yours"'.
But speaking on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, Dr Allan Pacey, senior
lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield and chairman of the
British Fertility Society, explained the UK courts have already declined to
rule that sperm can be treated as an asset.
'In all of the cases where a property claim has been brought
to court, the court has ruled that you cannot class sperm as an "asset",
in the same way as you might be able to classify a car, or a house, or a
painting', he said.
Dr Anna Smajdor, lecturer in biomedical ethics at University
of East Anglia, also speaking on the programme, said it was unlikely the law
would be changed. She said there was no justification for treating sperm, under
current divorce laws, as a marital asset that would require the spouse to show
the court they had made some contribution to that marital asset.
'It is not enough that you have some property or some goods',
she explained. 'You have to show that you have actually helped to build up those
'The wife would have to show legally that her husband couldn't
have produced that sperm without her input'.