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Australia is appealing for a centralized database to track sperm donors amid fears that the current system could lead to a number of familial complications.
“We need a central register across Australia, and a central bank so that everyone operates out of the same one … and it’s not dependent on which doctor they go to,” Rebecca Kerner, the chair of the Australian and New Zealand Infertility Councilors Association, told The Guardian.
The current system in Australia does not track sperm once it leaves the state of origin: With six states and two territories, that’s a lot of genetic material moving around unchecked.
Each state and territory also has its own laws about tracking and releasing information on donors to donor-conceived individuals.
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The current system tracks and limits a donor to only enough material for five or 10 families, but nothing stops someone from doing so in each state, leading to fears of “prolific” donors who could end up fathering dozens of children across the country.
Partners Jen and Jane hold hands during the fertility process at a fertility clinic in Sydney, Australia. (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
That would lead to the potential for someone to have, then, dozens of half-siblings around the country, leading to the risk of “accidental incest” and trauma when someone discovers they are part of a much bigger family than they realized.
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“Sperm was transferred across states in Australia and, once it leaves a state, nobody keeps records of what happens to it,” Amiee Shackleton, the director of Donor Conceived Australia, said. “When donor-conceived people find out they have that many siblings, it is very distressing.”
BER 12: A laboratory worker fills a test tube at the Sydney IVF Clinic in Sydney, Australia, Thursday, October 12, 2006. Australia’s government spends about A$100 million a year subsidizing fertility treatments. (Jack Atley/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
The system also doesn’t track anyone unless they have made a donation within a fertility clinic, which raises concerns about the increase in informal sperm donation, thanks to the internet. Shackleton claimed that thousands of people have sourced sperm or eggs online.
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Adam Hooper, one of Australia’s most “prolific” sperm donors, with 20 donor-conceived offspring, flew to Brisbane in Western Australia last year to hand out his sample in cups to women who were eager to get hold of a sperm donor, The Daily Mail reported.
A laboratory holds up a slide with sperm on it at the Sydney IVF Clinic in Sydney, Australia, Thursday, October 12, 2006. (Jack Atley/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Some would-be mothers turned to Hooper because they found it difficult to scrape together the money for IVF treatment or because clinics had run low on samples. Taking money for donations is illegal in Australia, though compensating men for travel or parking or other expenses is not.
Hooper said wanted to foster a close-knit group of mothers who could bond over their children’s shared DNA, telling the Courier Mail that it was important to him that the children “have a sense of knowing where they are from.”
The same fear exists in the U.S., even though the country’s population is 10 times that of Australia: The New York Post in 2017 urged greater regulation of sperm donors, noting a similar fear of sexual relations between half-siblings who do not know of their connection.
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Professor Fiona Kelly, Law School dean at La Trobe University in Australia, said that creating a central database would be a complicated process but that the states could achieve it if they were willing to put in the work.
“If all the state governments were willing to come together and agree on a uniform law that they each adopted, it could be administered and funded at a state level,” Kelly said.
Peter Aitken is a Fox News Digital reporter with a focus on national and global news.