HFEA allows the first bulk import of sperm from abroad

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) today allowed Glasgow Royal Infirmary to import a quantity of donated sperm from a clinic in Denmark.

HFEA Chairman Mrs Ruth Deech said:

"Because of a severe shortage of sperm donors in their area, and a general shortage in the UK, an application was made by Glasgow Royal Infirmary to import donor sperm from abroad. This application has now been approved by the HFEA. We have insisted that the Danish clinic match the high safety standards enforced by the HFEA in the UK."

"We have made it a condition that Danish donors must give written consent before their sperm is exported to the UK. They must also be told about the UK's legal position including: legal parentage; anonymity; the keeping of donor information on a central register and the extent to which that information may be disclosed."

The Special Direction by the HFEA requires that Danish donors must also provide information in line with that obtained here in the UK including the donor's name. Under current UK legislation this information will not be given to the patient or child.

The import of sperm to the UK is covered by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. This gives power to the HFEA to make Directions authorising such imports. Under these Special Directions, every time a licensed clinic wishes to import sperm into the UK, they must apply to the HFEA. Each application is dealt with on a case by case basis.


Notes to editors

  • 34 imports have been allowed since 1 August 1991 on a named patient basis; this is the first time a bulk import of sperm to the UK has been permitted.
    In Denmark donors are paid a flat rate of £23 to cover expenses. In the UK donors may be paid up to £15 plus expenses.
  • Patients will be made aware of the origin of the sperm before treatment is offered.
    Since records began in 1991, there have been 3,088 registered sperm donors in the UK. From August 1991 to March 1997 12,086 babies have been born using donor sperm.
  • Permission will be given for a specified number of straws of sperm to be imported over a given period of time.
    The sperm donor will be told that they will not be considered the legal father or have any parental responsibility for any child born as a result of their donation.
  • By law, donors' names and dates of birth have to be given to the HFEA which holds them on its confidential information register. In addition non-identifying information such as eye colour, hair colour, occupation and interests, is also held on the register. Currently this information can only be used when donor offspring reach 18 and wish to know if they were born from donated gametes or are related to someone they wish to marry.
  • The HFEA safeguards and protects patients and the public in the field of licensed infertility treatments, and was the first statutory body of its kind in the world. Its principle tasks are to license and monitor clinics that carry out in vitro fertilisation, donor insemination and human embryo research. The HFEA regulates the storage of gametes and embryos and keeps a register of all licensed treatments carried out in the UK. It also seeks to stimulate and lead national debates on key ethical issues.

For furthur information please contact the HFEA press office.

Page last updated: 13 March 2009

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