Childless couples denied as anonymity loss scares egg and sperm donors
Mark Henderson Science Editor
The removal of anonymity from sperm and egg donors has provoked a crisis in fertility treatment that is denying couples the chance to try for a baby.
Infertility therapy with donated sperm has collapsed to the lowest levels since records began, according to the first official figures, seen by The Times, since the Government banned anonymous donation in 2005.
The number of women treated with donated sperm fell by about 20 per cent, from 2,727 in 2005 to 2,107 in 2006, the first full year after the change. The number of donor insemination treatment cycles fell by 30 per cent over the same period.
Egg donation is also in serious decline: the number of treatments using “shared” eggs, offered by women in return for a discount on IVF, fell by 40 per cent between 2004 and 2006.
The figures demolish claims by ministers and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) that sperm donation has improved since anonymity was ended. Last year Shirley Harrison, then the chairwom-an of the authority, said it was “a myth” that there had been problems.
Although the number of sperm donors has risen slightly, many will be friends and relatives who donate for a couple’s exclusive use. Fewer donors are contributing to sperm banks, from which the donation can be used by up to ten women. The result is that although more donors have been registered the shortage of sperm is becoming more acute.