Sperm donor anonymity could be threatened by DNA testing websites

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Sperm donor anonymity could be at risk as men are warned about DNA testing websites that help children gain details of their blood relatives

  • Companies such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA give details of blood relatives
  • Men who donated sperm decades ago risk being contacted by unknown children










Men who donated sperm decades ago are at risk of being contacted by unknown children due to DNA testing websites, the fertility regulator has warned.

Companies such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA provide details about blood relatives that allow children of sperm donors to determine who they are.

Julia Chain, head of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, said “donor anonymity as we knew it is gone.” Going forward, she said questions have been raised about donors automatically being anonymous for the couples and single women they help.

Companies such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA provide details about blood relatives that allow children of sperm donors to determine who they are

Ms Chain raised the issue of sperm donor anonymity after the regulator launched a review of the fertility law. In a speech at the Fertility 2022 conference, she said: “The reality is that donor anonymity as we knew it is gone.

“It has been overtaken by changes in social attitudes regarding fertility treatment and donation, and the growth of affordable direct-to-consumer DNA testing.”

Under a change in the law, men who have donated sperm since 2005 are only anonymous until their children turn 18. From next year, these men can begin to be contacted by adult children who can ask for the name and address of the donor.

Fertility charities fear that the lack of donors for women who want their child’s biological father known to them from the start is driving people to unregulated online sperm banks.

Nina Barnsley, director of the Donor Conception Network, said the new law changed the type of man involved. “Instead of 18-year-old medical students, donors now tend to be slightly older men who are happy to be contacted.” Allowing men to be named donors could continue this trend. However, this could make situations more difficult when it comes to setting limits on the role the donor plays in the life of the child.

On the risk of DNA testing sites, Allan Pacey, professor of andrology at the University of Sheffield, said: “This is a classic example of the law not keeping pace with technology and society. ” Men who have donated sperm should be aware that their children may find it.

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