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Withdrawal of consent by sperm donors

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 20 October 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4297
  1. Peter D Sozou, research associate13,
  2. Sally Sheldon, professor of law2,
  3. Geraldine M Hartshorne, professorial research fellow3
  1. 1Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, London School of Economics and Political Science, London WC2A 2AE
  2. 2University of Kent, Canterbury
  3. 3Clinical Sciences Research Institute, Warwick Medical School, Coventry
  1. Correspondence to: p.sozou{at}

    Since 1991, sperm donors in the UK have had the legal right to withdraw consent for the use of their sperm in fertility treatment. This has the potential to adversely affect patients. It may mean that previous recipients of a donor’s sperm cannot have further children who are full biological siblings to an existing child, and that embryos created from the donor’s sperm and a patient’s eggs must be destroyed.

    We have informally investigated withdrawal of consent by sperm donors donating after 1 April 2005, when lifelong anonymity for gamete donors ended. An email in November 2008 to colleagues at five UK fertility centres asked if recipients knew of cases where a sperm donor had withdrawn consent after his sperm had been released for use. One reported that this had happened at their centre. This was followed by an email in March 2009, kindly circulated by the Association of Clinical Embryologists, asking each recipient how many donors recruited at their centre since April 2005 had withdrawn consent …

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