The Need to Regulate Websites that Allow People to Become Donors

The Need to Regulate Websites that Allow People to Become Donors

In this video, Page Provan Director and award-winning surrogacy lawyer, Stephen Page, talks about the need to regulate websites that allow people to become (sperm) donors.


G’day, I’m Stephen Page from Page Provan Family and Fertility Lawyers, and today I’m talking about the need for regulation of apps and websites that allow people to become donors.

I don’t mean donors in terms of money, I’m talking about donors in terms of sperm, eggs, and embryos. These sites, in my view, need to be regulated. There have been a series of cases from Australia where men have continued to be sperm donors when they shouldn’t have been. Right around the country, there are caps on the number of women that men can supply this sperm to.

So that children don’t wake up later and discover that they have a huge brood of genetic siblings, and therefore don’t know their way in the world and cause, at times, grave psychological damage. There shouldn’t be regulation of people’s bedrooms. If prospective sperm donors, for example, meet intended parents, and they meet at a party, or meet socially, or even by phone, fine.

But if they go through a website, in my view or an app, in my view, those websites or apps that allow that to occur in an obvious way, they’re targeted in that area, they should be regulated, and what we’ve seen in the last few years is men who should just have stopped and haven’t.

The first example of that is a guy called Joe Donor, that’s not his real name, but he’s an American who lives outside Australia and has come to Australia at least once or twice to provide sperm, and as happens with these donors, sometimes the sperm is provided through artificial insemination, and sometimes through natural insemination, sex.

How many times has Joe Donor donated? I don’t know, but I know that he’s reported that there have been 100 children born through him. The other man who stands out is a guy called Alan Phan, who hails from Brisbane, and a couple years ago, after he donated through clinics and hit the cap, he kept donating, and in one year, according to news reports, he had created another 20 children.

Another man a couple of years ago in his 70s, was still donating to lesbian couples, and he wasn’t donating through clinics anymore because of age, and he’d hit the cap. But in his immortal words, “Some like to fish or to play golf, I like to masturbate”, and then the last man who really demonstrates the need for regulation in this area was a man discovered in March this year who had created 60 children in Australia.

He’d gone through IVF clinics, and he’d also gone out socially through apps and websites, and he’d done this under four alias. This was only found out, according to news reports, at a community barbecue when several members of the rainbow community discovered that your child looks like my child and then the whole truth of the story came out.

Imagine being a teenager and discovering that, assuming he stops now, you have 59 siblings. How as a teenager can you possibly fathom that you’ve got 59 genetic siblings? How does that make you feel? How insignificant does that make you feel in the world? How does it add a chip to the shoulder of that child, the young person?

So I think these sites need to be regulated, and regulation isn’t that hard. The starting point is to ensure that when the men, because it’s typically concerning sperm donors, that they produce their ID if they want to be donors, and that the ID is kept by the website, so it probably has to be some auditing process in due course, and that there is a live number on his profile about how many families they’ve donated to.

That information is then fed through to a government agency, and because we have a number of government agencies across the country, I’ve just said the New South Wales Ministry of Health, that’s one of them. It could be one in Western Australia or South Australia or VARTA in Victoria, and then it feeds it to the others and it also feeds it to the IVF clinics nationwide so that each clinic knows here’s a donor who’s donated.

If that donor has already donated through that clinic, it pops up because clinics are bound by the cap, clinics would then notify the relevant authorities and then if that notification was made, it would stop. As I said, you can’t regulate bedrooms, but you can regulate this behaviour so that intended parents are not taken advantage of.

Children, particularly after they’re born and grow up, realise that they are special, they aren’t just a number, they aren’t a product of someone else’s vanity, and they don’t accidentally breed with someone else and have children as a result, not knowing that the person that they’re having sex with happens to be their genetic sibling.

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