Published February 27 2015, The Copenhagen Post
Brett: “124 of the 533 children you fathered following your sperm donation to a fertility clinic in 1994 are now suing to discover your identity. As your lawyer I was thinking we could plead insanity.”
David: “I don’t have mental problems … I DON’T HAVE MENTAL PROBLEMS!”
Brett: “When we’re in court I want you to say it exactly that way.”
Danish sperm’s booming
It might be a comedy, but ‘The Delivery Man’, the 2013 movie starring Vince Vaughn from which the preceding scene was taken, raises some pretty interesting questions about sperm banks, the anonymity of donors, and the relationship they might one day have with their biological children.
Danish sperm exports have never been higher. And while it is popular worldwide, it is particularly in Britain, a country that already happens to have its fair share of Scandinavian genetics thanks to the Viking raids over a millennium ago.
Viking genes popular
Danish sperm has a good reputation for being one of the best in quality due to the thorough screening for genetic diseases and defects.
Its popularity also stems from people favouring the Nordic features of being tall, blond and light-eyed.
In Britain, an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 Viking babies have already been made using sperm donations from the Danish sperm bank Cyros.
A right to know
One of them was mothered by Lucinda Hart from Cornwall in southwestern Britain. She chose to have her now 18-month-old daughter Raphael using Danish sperm for a number of reasons.
Firstly, she loves Scandinavia and wanted a donor with “a fair complexion compatible with my own”. And additionally, she wanted a donor with an extended, open profile, which enabled her to find out detailed information about him and ensured that he would welcome future contact should her child want it.
“It was of upmost importance to me to choose an open donation so that my daughter will at least have the option to know who her biological father is and meet him should she wish to,” she said.
During her pregnancy, Hart came to the realisation of the true value of the extended donor profile.
“I owe my child, and hopefully children [Hart still has three frozen embryos for which she would like to become pregnant at least one more time in the near future] this knowledge about the person who has helped father them,” she said.
Tell the truth
It is a point of view that Aarhus-based psychologist Karoline Heebøll heartily endorses. Given that the well-being of the children is the highest priority for all the parties involved, an open donorship makes more sense than a closed one.
“When it comes to raising children with the awareness of where they come from, it’s a lot like with adoptive children,” she said.
“The best thing is to raise the children with the truth. In this case it would be that they are a result of sperm donorship. Of course you can do this step by step until the children have reached an age where they can fully comprehend the meaning of it. It’s a lot better than having to deal with the shock of full disclosure, let’s say in your teenage years, under potentially suboptimal circumstances.”
According to research, children who have been fathered using an anonymous sperm donor experience difficulties trying to accept it later on. Often they feel like part of them is missing and find it hard to deal with the knowledge that there is no way they will ever be able to find out anything about half of their origins.
They can also become embittered towards their mother for entering a deliberate transaction that denies them half their origin information.
Hart explains how being honest to her daughter about her origins was always her clear objective.
“I sincerely hope that once she has reached an age when she can decide for herself, that she will want to meet her donor,” she said. “My biggest fear is that she will not want any sort of relationship with her biological father.”
A relationship is key
Nik Holst, a Danish sperm donor, also has one fear. “I’m not sure whether I actually am or if it’s just because everyone keeps asking me the same question, but I guess I might be worried that I will want to be too involved in the child’s life who I am the biological father of,” he said.
“I have to remember I am only the donor. I am not part of the close family unit.”
Holst’s circumstances are different from the traditional donor as he already knows the mother. He was approached by a good friend of his together with her partner, and he did not accept any financial compensation.
“At the time I had been ready for children for a while, but my girlfriend wasn’t,” he said.
“When my friend approached me about whether I’d donate my sperm to her and her partner to have a child together, I didn’t hesitate.”
A secure environment
However, while Holst was happy to help the couple, he wouldn’t donate sperm to a sperm bank. As a close friend of the mother and her partner, he feels reassured that the child is being born into a secure unit and familiar environment.
“They live just around the corner, and although I have no paternal responsibilities, it was agreed upon from the beginning that I will play an important role in the child’s life from the beginning – probably comparable to that of an uncle,” he said.
Hart, who was subjected to fierce online criticism following the publication of a feature about her in the Daily Mail, a British newspaper, also stresses the importance of the child being born into a secure environment.
“If these children are one thing for sure, it is wanted,” she said.
“Due to the highly regulated and thought-through nature of their conception, they are extremely likely to be born into a loving and stable home.“
Sharing is caring
Hart is grateful to those who make pregnancies like hers possible.
“I had known for a long time that I wanted to be a single mum, instead of sharing the responsibility with another man and consequently having to make compromises about how to raise my children,” she said.
“I sincerely want to thank the Danish sperm bank [the European Sperm Bank] and the donors who have helped me have my daughter. She is a happy, beautiful and already a very smart human being.”
- The largest sperm bank in the world is Denmark's Cyros International
- Some 3,000 to 5,000 babies have been born in Britain as a result of Danish sperm exported by Cyros
- Cyros boasts the highest number of registered pregnancies in the world
- Danish sperm is exported to more than 70 countries
- The number of people a donor's sperm can be sold to is limited per country
- Sperm can either be inserted directly into the womb via the Intrauterine Insemination method, or iva IVF, typically costing 50,000 to 150,000 kroner per round, which can produce a multiple number of fertilised eggs