Consumer DNA tests are infringing on sperm banks' promises of donor anonymity

Direct-to-consumer DNA tests, which make it easy for anyone to learn the identity of blood relatives who may have wanted to stay anonymous, are challenging sperm banks' longstanding assurances of identity protection, STAT reports.

Most clinics and experts in the field suggest that anonymity policies should therefore be revised. According to STAT, some have already done so, making it clearer that while they will still keep donor identities private, they cannot offer protection from consumer DNA tests. Other clinics, however, are standing firm in their existing policies: At least one has reportedly taken legal action against someone who attempted to contact an anonymous donor after learning his identity from a 23andMe DNA test.

As anonymity becomes increasingly difficult to enforce, experts worry the number of willing donors will decrease. A 2016 study cited by STAT found that almost one-third of potential sperm donors said they would refuse to donate if they were listed on a registry. The study's authors also suggested those donors willing to be identified would likely require above-average compensation.

Still, the transition away from strict anonymity has many supporters. "It's not like [sperm banks] are creating widgets in a factory," Wendy Kramer, who used donor sperm to conceive her son, told STAT. "This is an industry creating human beings, so you’d think there would be more accountability and ethics…The lack of regulation and the lack of oversight has had real ramifications."

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