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UK sperm donor crisis

A study by a leading UK fertility centre has found that the numbers of men ?especially students ?coming forward as potential sperm donors fell sharply after 2000, almost certainly due to growing awareness that changes in the law would be removing the right to anonymity.

The fall in applications, leading to a significant decline in the numbers recruited, has prompted researchers from the Newcastle Fertility Centre at LIFE to call for urgent action to attract more volunteers ?particularly from among older men ?and for fears over the release of donor information to be allayed.

The results of the study of over 1,100 potential donors who applied between 1994 and 2003 to the Newcastle centre are published on-line (Thursday 10 November) in Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal Human Reproduction[1].

They reveal that 88% of applicants were aged under 36, more than half were students without a partner, 85% were unmarried and over three-quarters had no children. Nearly a third had defaulted along the way and almost two-thirds were rejected (85% of those because of sub-optimal semen quality). At the end of the recruitment and testing process fewer than four in a hundred (3.63%) were accepted as suitable donors.

Overall, there was a downward trend in the annual number of applicants from around 175 in 1994 to about 25 in 2003, with the sharpest fall occurring from 2000 onwards. From 1999, the numbers who changed their mind during the application and testing process rose. The acceptability rate of donors (donor release rate) also declined over the study period because of the introduction of stringent criteria aimed at improving standards of recruitment.

Lead author Dr Sudipta Paul, who is now locum consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Whitehaven Hospital in Cumbria, said the study showed that the number of men interested in donating sperm had declined significantly, with a consequent reduction in the number recruited. This
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Source:European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology


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