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Potential donors urged to 'give life, give hope' in the UK

Dr. Kirsty Horsey

Progress Educational Trust

12 February 2005

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[BioNews, London] The UK's Department of Health (DH) has today launched a new national campaign aimed at increasing public awareness about the need for egg and sperm donation, and encouraging potential egg and sperm donors to come forward. The campaign, called 'Give Life, Give Hope' focuses primarily on men aged 28-40 and women aged 28-35, from all social groups. The DH hopes to prevent further shortages of donors, a problem that has been exacerbated by new regulations, coming into force in April, which will remove anonymity from all future donors. According to the DH, donations from just one per cent of the fertile population would satisfy the current demand for egg and sperm donors in the UK. Currently, only 250 men and 1100 women donate gametes each year.

UK fertility clinics say that they have already noticed a decline in the numbers of people coming forward to donate gametes, since the announcement, made last January, that the rules on anonymity were to be changed. The changes mean that anyone born from donations made after 1 April will be able to ask for identifying information about the donor, when they reach the age of 18.

The new campaign, developed in conjunction with the National Gamete Donation Trust (NGDT), hopes to raise public awareness about the benefits of egg and sperm donation. Posters, leaflets and business cards will be distributed to a participating network of 95 fertility clinics throughout the country. In addition, the campaign will promote the NGDT's website and helpline, as the organisation will be billed as 'the first port of call' for anyone who wants further information on donating their gametes.

Launching the campaign, Health Minister Melanie Johnson said that it aims to 'encourage people to see the value of donating and to realise what it really means to the recipients: that they are giving families hope and the possibility of a new life'. She added: 'we also want to dispel the myths around donating egg and sperm and seek to assure donors that they will have no financial or legal responsibilities to any related offspring, either now or in 18 years time'. Laura Witjens, chair of the NGDT, said 'our hope is that this campaign will spark an interest in men and women up and down the country to find out more'. The British Fertility Society (BFS) welcomed the campaign, but called for more action in time for the change in law in April 2005. Dr Allan Pacey, Honorary Secretary of the BFS said 'this is the first time that the UK government has put resources behind a national programme to recruit gamete donors. Until now fertility centres have had to commit their own resources and they have had variable success in doing so'. He continued: 'however, some members of the BFS have significant concerns that infertility clinics have not been given enough time or assistance to prepare for this campaign. Moreover, there are important practical details yet to be worked out about how clinics will cope with what is a big change in everyday practice'. Further guidance is urgently needed'.

Last November, the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) launched a public consultation on sperm, egg and embryo donation. It is seeking views on issues such as whether there should be limits on the number of children per donor, how donor's characteristics should be matched with patients, and how much compensation donors should be paid. One proposal is that compensation for egg donors should be raised to ?1000, in recognition of the more invasive nature of the donation process, and to encourage more women to donate. The consultation takes the form of an online questionnaire, available via the HFEA's website (www.hfea.gov.uk), and is open until 4 February 2005.

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 12 February 2005   Date Updated: 12 February 2005
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