Danish sperm bank should set a limit, Dutch experts urge


Western Europe


The office of Cryos, a large Danish sperm bank. Photo AFP, Henning Bagger

Dutch gynaecologists are worried about sperm donors in other countries who can father as many children as they want. They call sperm banks in Denmark to set a limit.

In the Netherlands, donors may only father up to 25 children in twelve different families, the Dutch broadcaster NOS writes. However, fertility clinics in the country also import donor sperm from abroad. Most of the imported sperm comes from commercial sperm banks in Denmark.

The waiting lists for foreign donors are much shorter than those of Dutch sperm donors. In addition, women can select a donor when they go for Danish sperm. In the case of a Dutch donor, they cannot do so.

However, the problem with commercial sperm banks in Denmark is that they do not limit the number of children a sperm donor can father. "The only thing they promise is that they abide by the maximum number of children per donor in a specific country", gynaecologist Monique Mochtar from the Amsterdam Academic Medical Centre says to the Volkskrant. She believes this is problematic because no one knows how many women worldwide have received the sperm of a specific donor. Every country has different rules, and some countries do not have a limit at all.

Recently, a Dutch court ruled that "mass donor" Jonathan Meijer, who fathered at least 550 children worldwide, could no longer donate sperm. The judge reasoned that donor children have a higher risk of psycho-social damage, such as identity problems because they have so many siblings.

The Danish sperm bank Cryos says that it does not have an upper limit as to how many children a donor can father. It explains that there is no international law that regulates this, Volkskrant reports.

The director of the sperm bank, Martin Lassen, says that the company has the ambition to "help no more than fifty families." At the same time, he adds that there are many factors that influence how often a donor's sperm is used.

The European Sperm Bank (ESB) says to have a limit of 75 families, but that this number can change. According to the company, the goal is to reduce it further.


Director Marieke Schoonenberg from a Dutch fertility clinic says that ESB ensured her that there are "rarely donors with more than 150 children." She tells the Volkskrant that she pressed the Danish sperm banks to abide by that. In addition, she pleads for more openness towards intended parents about how many children a donor has fathered in the past. "That is something that should really change. There should be as few surprises for the offspring as possible."

However, both Cryos and ESB say that they will not release this information because there is no legal obligation to do so.


Ties van der Meer, from the Dutch Association for Donor Children, thinks that sperm banks keep information from parents and donor-conceived children on purpose. "Every form of transparency leads to them being able to create fewer children. That negatively impacts their profits." Van der Meer calls this a "serious violation of children's rights." He also criticises physicians who cooperate in this. "Why would you cooperate with a company that does not respect the limit? Ethical awareness does not stop at the border, does it?"



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