Recent headlines about donor Simon Watson have brought certain issues to light. Whilst sperm donation is a proven and potentially necessary method of conception amongst infertile women, it may be less advantageous for donors.
Do men, specifically sperm donors, face implicit emasculation? Is the role of the father in society being exploited today?
It is estimated that one in seven couples have problems conceiving and that around 2000 babies in the UK are born each year using donated sperm.
But some experts see sperm donation as an ethical minefield, especially in terms of anonymity: although legislation allows children to trace their biological fathers, donors themselves are not actually obliged to reveal their identity unless traced. From the outset, donors only have to reveal their eye and hair colour and ethnic origin, as seen on Xytex.com, an online sperm bank, in order to biologically father a child.
So, is sperm donation virtually anonymous, and what is the role of the sperm donor after insemination?
Donor Simon Watson, who has been interviewed in the Daily Mail, helps answer this question. Watson admitted that he did not know much about his possible offspring, only knowing their vague collective whereabouts from Australia to Spain. And more tellingly, he admits he has “absolutely no desire” to know how many children his sperm has produced.
Well, we could be forgiven for sharing Watson’s initial acceptance that he does not need to know where all of his children are. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority makes it clear that sperm donors are not expected to financially provide for any offspring and evidently, Watson feels no need to trace his children. Therefore, sperm donation is essentially still anonymous even despite legislation enabling children to trace their biological father. Sperm donors are not required to be interested in their children’s lives. For some experts, this is to be expected, as sperm donation does – and should – not equate to fatherhood.
In juxtaposition, some cannot help but ask whether this is paving the way for the rise of the anonymous Dad.
Watson has “absolutely no desire” to contact his children. His worryingly altruistic (but perhaps expected) attitude helps highlights the controversy with sperm donation.
We all know that a sperm donor is simply that; a donor, yet it seems to completely undermine the importance of responsibility and care that a biological father could really offer.
As The Times puts it, “many children conceived by donor sperm have grown up angry and confused” with the absenteeism and confusion over their own conception by sperm donation. Legislation allowing children to trace their biological fathers is leading to a frustrating state of affairs. Even once the child has found his or her biological father, they are not legally able to expect any emotional or financial support from him.
So, Simon Watson thinks “there’s no point in worrying about things in the future, which may never happen”. But maybe ignorance should not be bliss after all.
Perhaps the problematic issue of paternal responsibility through sperm donation should be addressed before an “angry and confused” generation of children demand what their donors cannot offer … the emotional and financial support of a biological father.
What do you think? Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.