The extensive use of commercial sperm banks in the Netherlands may increase the likelihood of inbreeding and psychological damage to children having to cope with the knowledge that they may multiple siblings in other countries, experts fear.
Figures from artificial insemination donor data organisation SDKB which were requested by the Volkskrant show that three-quarters of donor babies were conceived using foreign sperm banks in 2022 compared to just a quarter in 2012.
The use of foreign sperm has boomed in the last decade because of a lack of Dutch donors, gynaecologists have said, with waiting lists for a national donor of up to three years.
A lack of control of the number of times the sperm is used in other countries, increases the likelihood of “mass donors” who may father dozens or even hundreds of children around the world, experts say.
In the Netherlands sperm from one donor can only be used by 12 women but there is no such restriction for commercial sperm banks abroad. The norm is meant to prevent inbreeding and any psycho-social damage to the children who may find it difficult to cope with having lots of half brothers and sisters
Foreign donors would also present an extra hurdle for children who want to contact their biological father because the distance will make a relationship more complicated.
Expert Britta van Beers said the figures are “shocking” and “a wake-up call”. “This norm is there to protect children but the rules are being massively circumvented because, although there are controls to check how many times the sperm is used here, there is no restriction on the sale of the sperm abroad,” she told the paper
GroenLinks, PvdA, CDA and ChristenUnie had asked former health minister Ernst Kuiper to tighten the rules around foreign sperm donation but he said at the time the use of foreign sperm banks is the responsibility of the prospective parents. He also said the Dutch government cannot interfere because the donor sperm is being traded by foreign businesses.
Van Beers said the problem could be easily solved by legally banning fertility clinics from using commercial sperm banks from other countries.. “We are talking about the interests of future children. You can’t leave those up to parents who are primarily concerned with the here and now of their wish to have a child,” she said.
The Netherlands has been confronted with a series of scandals surrounding donor sperm of its own, with revelations of doctors illegally using their own sperm to father multiple children, prompting a call for a review of practices up to 2004, when anonymous donation was banned.
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