To continue the conversation about egg/sperm donation (part 1 and part two can be found here), an article was recently released detailing the life of a family who used a sperm donor. The resulting child was diagnosed with schizophrenia and tragically committed suicide at the age of 27. It was later found that the sperm donor was also diagnosed with schizophrenia later in his life, after his sperm donation.
This article opened the conversation about the link between 3rd party donation and giving accurate medical history. Many mental illnesses do not have family inheritance, but some can be linked. The following questions we have received from our audience are important and relevant to those who are involved in 3rd party reproductive treatment, and to consider in our future practices.
Who are the three parties involved?
- The Donor – is the person who is giving the egg or sperm to someone.
- The Intended Parent – is the person or couple receiving the egg or sperm.
- The Resulting Child – is the child that is born as a result of a donation cycle.
Are sperm and egg donors required to disclose their medical history?
The simple answer is: yes.
The first step to being a gamete donor (sperm or egg) is to fill out a questionnaire that involves a deep dive into personal and familiar medical history. This medical history includes things like mental illness, diabetes, cancer, precious drug and alcohol abuse, etc.
Not all diseases are family inherited, but for caution, donors with recurring conditions amongst family members tend to be disqualified. For example, if there was a strong history of cancer with a donor’s history, across multiple generations, that person would be disqualified from becoming a donor. Family history definitely plays a major role in the health and wellbeing of offspring, so it’s important to be transparent.
Do we actually check this history? How can you be sure it’s genuine?
Yes: we do screen the donor’s medical history! In the questionnaire, we’re able to flag conditions that we know would disqualify people from being a donor, and we review every application. We also use this as a cross-reference for when we have a video or in-person interview with them, and we ask for more details about certain situations.
Donor information is reliant on the honor system for determining if their medical history is genuine or not. Most of the time egg and sperm donors donate for good reasons. We compensate them for their time, but most donors invest their time and body to help people and have personal reasons outside compensation for donating. The reality is that with our current systems and privacy laws, we may not cover every potential risk, but we screen as thoroughly as we can. Donors complete multiple interview rounds, physicals, and even must pass a psych evaluation before final approval.
Current laws/practices in place in the U.S.
In the US, the majority of donation services are anonymous. We keep all medical records for the donor and patient, and a majority of the time contact is never allowed between the donor and the intended parent. If information from a donor’s records is requested by the intended parents, identifying information is screened out.
Even if an intended parent wanted to know more information about their donors for medical reasons, generally all identifying information is kept hidden due to HIPPA privacy laws.
In some countries, these laws and regulations are vastly different. In the UK, it is the law that a child produced from donor sperm or egg be told at the age of 18, identifying information about their donor. If they choose, they are entitled to identifying information from the HFEA about them, including their name and last known address. This is similar for many other countries. If you donate at an egg bank in the U.S. that provides donor eggs and sperm abroad you may be required to agree to these rules as well.
Why New Hope?
New Hope Fertility Center is home to world-renowned fertility specialists. We custom design fertility treatments for the individual to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy. Our specialists believe in putting the patient first and being with them through every step of the fertility journey. Our team is well versed in helping women of all ages reach their fertility goals. If you want compassionate fertility care, New Hope is the right place for you. Call us at (212) 517-7676 or schedule your initial consultation today!