What’s Right About Knowing?
In Sperm donor anonymity and compensation: an experiment with American sperm donors, the authors contribute to our knowledge about the impact of moving toward a system of known sperm donation in the USA by surveying a population of active and inactive actual sperm donors. Their conclusions — slightly more than a quarter would refuse to contribute, while the remaining donors would require an additional $60 per donation — are interesting and useful in modeling the implications of moving towards a new regime that allows for limited disclosure.
Yet this study must be placed in a larger context that considers not just the market for sperm donors but also the implications of anonymity and disclosure for family formation. A number of developments call into question the ethics of anonymity and, indeed, the ability to ‘promise’ anonymity itself: (i) donor-conceived offspring increasingly advocating for additional information about their donors; (ii) growing numbers of families that cannot ‘cover’ their use of a donor; (iii) improved searching techniques available from genetic testing and the internet; (iv) claims that lack of access to information violates offsprings’ right under the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and (v) more technological means for using the intending parents’ own gametes (through, for example, in vitro gametogenesis).
Providing information on the financial implications of ending complete anonymity is thus a useful exercise in assessing the consequences of changing the current US system, and the authors’ thoughtful caveats on both the ‘underground’ market and fertility tourism provide even more grounding for assessment. This brief comment summarizes these contextual issues as a way of adding depth to the article’s implications.