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In Canada, Sperm Donor Pool Shrivels when Payments Cease

CMAJ,  Jan 12, 2010
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Shrinking donor pools may be leading some fertility clients to look online for private sperm donors, but doctors warn that only fertility clinics screen sperm donors to ensure they are healthy.

On the website, a 48-year-old civil engineer/songwriter/composer/music producer named Randy, who describes himself as having genius-level intelligence, offers his sperm to Canadian women who want to have children. But not through artificial insemination. “Natural method only,” he writes. On, a 53-year-old man who is disease-free and has a PhD offers his sperm to women from any country — as long as they fly to his home in Bahrain, a small country in the Persian Gulf. A 34-year-old Californian named Trent Arsenault offers free sperm on his website (, which includes a list of 10 successful pregnancies.

Fertility doctors don’t recommend that women seeking to conceive take these men, and the increasing number of other men offering free sperm on the Internet, up on their offers. It is not safe, experts say, and these grey-market donors were probably rejected from fertility clinics, which have rigorous screening practices. These websites have been popping up with greater frequency, some fertility experts speculate, because people seeking donor sperm have fewer options than they once did, in large part because many countries no longer pay sperm donors.

In 2006, for instance, the United Kingdom banned payment for sperm, and the number of women using donated sperm fell by more than a quarter. Some UK fertility advocates want payments brought back, claiming that the lack of donor sperm is simply driving women abroad in search of fertility treatments. Some fear that shrinking sperm donor pools could cause too much reliance on a small number of donors, resulting in too many half-siblings growing up in the same area, increasing the risk that blood relatives might unknowing end up in sexual relationships.

In 2004, Canada’s Assisted Human Reproductive Act was changed to make it illegal to pay for sperm, the rationale being that sperm should not be considered a traditional commodity. Read more.


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