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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Sperm banks in Canada an endangered species?

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Author Topic: Sperm banks in Canada an endangered species?
Dzuunmod
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The other day my Parliament passed legislation allowing for certain types of stem cell research, and hidden in that legislation was a much less talked about law which, if passed by the Senate, will ban financial compensation for sperm donations.

The article I'm linking to has plenty of quotes from people displeased with that part of the legislation, but I've yet to find anything with quotes backing it up, so if they're out there, I'd love to see them, anyway.

So, basically, some people think that this might be the end of sperm banks in Canada. They've done the same thing in certain European countries, and followed it up with public education campaigns which brought sperm donations back up again - but changed the profile of the donors. The article says that the donors in the countries where paying for sperm is outlawed tend to be older, family men, while currently in Canada (and likely the U.S.) donors are largely young, and looking to make a quick buck.

Somehow, I don't see a public awareness campaign about this issue happening here in Canada. I'd been pondering for quite sometime the idea of donating - I figured it was win-win because I'd make some money that I really need, and someone out there would get a family that otherwise might not happen. I guess if I do it now, it'll be the high road and the high road alone that compels me.

What do you think? Is there any reason that sperm banks shouldn't be allowed to pay for sperm?

As long as there are approrpriate guidelines in place governing who can and cannot give sperm, and dictating what the conditions at the banks must be, I see nothing wrong with it. In fact, I'm having a hard time understanding why they wanted to change the law at all.

------------------
"Like a bat out of hell, time has come for you!"
-Ballad of a Comeback Kid, The New Pornographers


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UKgirl
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quote:
Originally posted by Dzuunmod:
Is there any reason that sperm banks shouldn't be allowed to pay for sperm?

I'm not sure whether you can pay sperm donors in the UK, but I sincerely hope not. I doubt it, since you can't pay blood donors, or any other type of donor I can think of. the main danger with paying donors of any kind is the effect it can have on the very poor. for most people the amount of money they would pay would be handy and nice to have, but would be an incentive rather than a deciding factor in whether or not to donate. However, for some people, that money could mean a hell of a lot (eg. the difference between eating or not, or their only chance to pay their bills). in these cases people who don't really feel comfortable donating, including men who don't feel they could emotionally detatch themselves from the knowledge that this will probably result in a child (or children) that are biologically theirs, but they can't see, may still donate. I find that thought very worrying, and so personally I am very pleased to hear about this law.


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cupcake
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I think the reason it was put in was so that, especially with the new laws, it becomes harder to abuse it.
I haven't read into the new law, so I only know the basics.. cloning is bad, but you can take DISCARDED stem cells from fertility clinics to study with.

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KandyKorn17
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UK.. don't you think a man should be able to choose what is more important- food on his table or emotional well being?
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UKgirl
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no, quite honestly I don't. I don't think the choice between the two should be a position the government allows people to be in. it could also be argued that in cases of extreme poverty (although I admit I don't know anything about the poverty/homelessness rate af Canada) this is in fact not a choice, as there are so few alternatives. The government makes sure that, in work, people are not forced to choose between money and their own wellbeing by ensuring safety and certain practices are adheared to, so why not in this aswell?
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Heather
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To my understanding, UK -- and I'll do some checking on this -- in countires where sperm banks do pay, as they do in the US, the men who donate tend to be young men like Dzuunmod, usually middle class, often students, rather than those at the poverty-level. Most banks cut off at age for donors at around 40, and ask for a six-month commitment and a high level of health, which actually is part of why men like Dzuun are a far more common donor than the homeless (home addresses are required, levels of high education, often, extensive family medical histories fully documented, etc.). In general, the selection criteria of sperm banks actually would deselect the overall demographic of most low-income men by virtue of them not being donors which would both be willing or able to follow the criteria for donating AND who would not have what sperm clients are shopping for, as it were, making them unfruitful for the clinics in terms of selling their sperm.

On a personal note, and quite related, when I was internng and working 60 hours a week for a meager $800 a month stipend, I seriously considered being an egg donor. I grew up in poverty and even knowing how to stretch that $800, between rent in an expensive city, food, transportation and clothing costs, it so was not cutting it. Ultimately, my heath at the time kept that from being an option for me, but that money (and for egg donation, it's huge) would have helped me greatly, and it would have rocked my world to be able to get it doing something that helped someone else so much, rather than by killing myself with extra menial jobs to try and pay the bills which offered me little, and offered little to anyone else. In fact, living on that little while working so hard caused me to become very ill and malnourished and resulted in one of my organs giving up the ghost and requiring emergency surgery which put me in further debt still, give I had no insurance.

To boot, since the evidence abounds that at the poverty level (and in other economic strata), there are men fathering children all over the place, and always have been, who have NO problem with emotional detachment of an actual child (and the cultural problem tends to be very much the opposite), with women they know and are intimately involved with, no less, I'd just really question the validity of the theory you're pursuing in terms of how it plays out in reality.

I could go on, really, especially having grown up and worked in poverty-ridden areas with that population and as a member of it myself, but it seems extraneous. Sperm banks tend to screen their donors pretty carefully, they do have interviews and consultations, the works, and from the way you're talking, I don't thin you're very familiar with how it all works in practice.

And given the sort of work often afforded and available to the very poor, I see sperm banking as something which has no more negative possible ramifications than anything else, for the few who COULD qualify as viable donors.

And people who are in the throes of poverty are just as capable as anyone else of making sound choices for themselves.

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Heather Corinna
Editor and Founder, Scarleteen

My epitaph should read: "She worked herself into this ground."
-- Kay Bailey Hutchinson

[This message has been edited by Miz Scarlet (edited 11-02-2003).]


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Dzuunmod
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I was just about to say as well, UK, that by that logic, perhaps it should be illegal to pay people to perform in pornography, because people living in poverty might not make the right decisions, and might regret them later. Or maybe it ought to be illegal to pay people to be police officers, because, after all, that's such a dangerous job and people living in poverty might accept it only because they're living in poverty...

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"Like a bat out of hell, time has come for you!"
-Ballad of a Comeback Kid, The New Pornographers


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UKgirl
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I'm ready to admit that, of course, I don't know that much about the US/Canadian (or even the UK) sperm donating system, as, having no sperm to donate, its not something I have looked into an awful lot! Also, as I may have implied, the idea of a "donating" system that involves being paid is quite alien to me. I'm very interested in these selection systems you talk about Miz S, anyway I could find out more? And what are the criteria they need to follow?

I'm sorry to hear about your terrible experience. It was a shame for you that you couldn't get that money, especially considering you really seem into the idea of egg donation (something I respect deeply, and might have wanted to do myself, if I hadn't just read about the procedure in Natalie Angier's Intimate Geography). However, the point I was making was not that people who generally thought positively about donation, and would probably like to do it anyway, might be egged on to do it by the prospect of the money, but rather that those who would normally never consider it, or find it upsetting, might to it anyway just because they needed the money.

You make a good point that a lot of men in certain groups have been found to have little responsibility or emotional attatchment to children they father, however this is based on statistics, and you cannot apply statistics to individuals. Unless they found that every poor American man is completely void of emotional attatchment to his children, and the possibility of him fathering children, (highly unlikely) that still leaves some men who could be damaged by this (if, as you point out, they manage to qualify).

quote:
Originally posted by Miz Scarlet:
And people who are in the throes of poverty are just as capable as anyone else of making sound choices for themselves.

I'm sorry if I gave the impression that this is what I meant, I did not mean to imply that people in poverty were stupid or irresponsible. I meant, instead that their choices are often limited, and are not such free choices as those of people who have enough of everything. I feel your story illustrates this perfectly. You needed to pay for food, rent, etc, but at the time could only find low paid work. In order to remain fed to a very basic level and in housing, you had to work extremely long hours in unrewarding jobs, and this endangered your health. You were also unable to pay for health insurance. whilst it would have been possible for you to work less hours, this would have meant going hungry and homeless. therefore, whilst you did have two options, one was not at all feasable, so it was as though you had no choice, and you had to choose something which resulted in being very damaging. Replace organ failure with emotional damage, and long hours with sperm donation, and you have the situation I was referring to.

Of course, in my opinion the best way of prevention all of these problems is to have a decent benefit (welfare?) system so people don't find themselves in poverty in the first place.


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Heather
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I'm just not finding any validity in the theory you're putting forth that men who donate sperm have, do or even can have serious emotional damage due to such (and I'm not sure why you're thinking this would be more so or more of a problem with low-incomes than anyone else, or why a lack of pay would make that better).

If you've got any studies or articles you've seen discussing this, I'd be interested in them, because I've never heard of that occurring, especially considering that throughout human history -- well before compiled statistics -- most men have been away from their homes and children for most of their children's lives and been just fine with that. Not saying it's impossible or that all men are detached from their offsping, I just have never seen any findings that sperm donation has been emotionally damaging for the donors. I also think it's possible you're projecting a bit, perhaps putting female feelings about our reproduction on men: ejaculation is not pregnancy or childbirth, even if it can result in same. It's just really not.

I have yet to hear any argument for women of any social strata getting compensated for putting children up for adoption, a FAR more complicated and lengthy process, with a tangible child involved and giant health issues, and where there usually very much IS serious emotional difficulty. So, if it's okay to be paid for that, why not sperm donation?

And even if there WERE emotional trauma involved, why would it not be okay to understand that perhaps part of the payment you were taking could compensate for that or help pay for processing it, in the same way that the pay of say, police officers, firefighters, teachers, etc. would provide for same?

In terms of the criteria, generally you're looking at this sort of a process for a sperm donor: they go to a clinic, they fill out an awful lot of forms. For most clinics, they will have to agree to a six month to one-year term of donating. They have an interview with a clinican and a counselor to get a sense of them, their well-being, their reasons for wanting to be donors. They then have to provide tons of documentation as to their personal health, and usually the health of their parents (and that documentation right there is going to screen out the majority of low-income people). To even go further, they need not have a lot of common health liabilities in their family history (diabetes, heart condtions, sickle cell and other congenital diseases), they need to pass "desireable" criteria like being under 35-40, max, like having a college degree, like being a non-smoker and never having been a drug user (again, those four things alone clears yet another HUGE batch of low-income folks). They get to that point, they then have to have medical tests done for a huge scope of diseases and conditions (HIV, hepatitis, various STIs, etc.), and with many clinics, they'll need to come back a couple months later and have the same tests done AGAIN before they have yet qualified. Suffice it to say, they also have to have a high sperm count.

It's SO not a matter of walking in the door, whacking off and having someone hand you money anymore; it never really was, but in the last decade or so, it's so far removed from that it's unreal. And it pays so little for so much legwork, it'd be nothing close to ideal for your average low-income dude who DID manage to qualify.

Lastly, you're making extrapolations from the personal example I gave you which aren't accurate in numerous ways, both in terms of my own situation and in terms of how poverty often works especially in the US, and there's no sense in correcting that. But I do think it's fair to say that comparing serious and life-threatening sickness to "emotional damage" I have only heard theorized by you in terms of sperm donation isn't very sound.

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Heather Corinna
Editor and Founder, Scarleteen

My epitaph should read: "She worked herself into this ground."
-- Kay Bailey Hutchinson

[This message has been edited by Miz Scarlet (edited 11-02-2003).]


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Peter
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A couple comments here from a guy.

First of all, I saw somewhere in the thread that you were not paid to be a blood donor. I live across the street from a plasma center and am looking out the window right now at it.The line of folks out their door every morning when I leave for work aren't altruists; they are hungry.

I can easily put feet into shoes in widely divergent paths here. I can see any man on the spur of the moment feeling sentimental about a sperm donation, where he may not be for the mess he leaves in the tissue when masturbating. I can see women feeling sentimental at times about donating an egg where they curse their monthly wasting of potential baby matter.

It will really very, not only by the individual but by the context, and by the moment of happenstance.

The sperm, the egg, these are body byproducts. People can make big money even for donating the right sort of hair. How large is the leap from this to unique body parts, though. Kidneys. Corneas. Fingers.

Where, and how, is the line drawn. What's the logic?

[[ Personally, btw, I'm in favor of compensating sperm, blood, plasma, and egg donations. The rest is a big muddy puddle, in my personal opinionated opinion. ]]


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BruinDan
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Another comment from another guy.

I hate to break it to anyone, and far be it from me to act the biology teacher...but sperm is made to be disseminated.

Sperm is not like a finger, not like a toe. It does not hang off of the body and serve a purpose. It is created every living day, and just wants to come out.

And, by golly, it's going to get out. In fact, it's going to get out however the heck it can. If it doesn't get out one way, it'll take another. If it doesn't get out that other way, it'll take a third exit. And while I'm sure there must be some guys out there who mourn for the loss of their dear sperm, it is certainly hard to imagine mourning the "loss" of something that is supposed to be forcefully evacuated anyway!

This whole notion of men being emotionally damaged by donating sperm just strikes me as implausible, and has the odd look of a byproduct of some welfare-reform debate that is probably best had elsewhere.

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BruinDan, "Number Three," PHOM

Beware the naked man who offereth you his pants.


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cupcake
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Grr this is so frustrating! I remember hearing why that clause was put in but I can't rememeber! It sounded pretty sound though- I generally trust my gov't.
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cupcake
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Found it! Yay for the CBC!

The nine prohibitions listed on the federal government's voluntary moratorium:

sex selection
commercial "surrogacy" arrangements
buying and selling eggs, sperm and embryos
genetic alteration
creation of an artificial womb
human embryo cloning
formation of animal-human hybrids
retrieval of eggs from fetuses and cadavers
egg donation in exchange for in-vitro fertilization

And the meat:
Buying or selling embryos, sperm, eggs or other human reproductive material
Here's why: The commercialization of human reproduction would be made illegal to prevent the exploitation of children, women and men. This prohibition addresses the issue that human life should not be treated as a commodity.

This would prevent children from being born as a result of commercial transactions. It would prohibit advertising to buy or sell reproductive material or to provide any of the services. And it would also mean people couldn’t be paid for donating sperm, eggs or other human reproductive material.

However, Health Canada’s draft legislation would allow donors to be reimbursed for “reasonable expenses,” which would be clearly defined. The Standing Committee on Health disagreed with this point, saying compensation should not be allowed.

"I think it dehumanizes people," said Liberal MP Bonnie Brown, who chairs the committee. "In Canada, we have a tradition of blood donations without compensation; we have a tradition of organ retrieval and donation with no compensation, and this would be a break with that tradition."


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Milke
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I guess I see the difference between blood and organ donation, and ova/sperm donation as being that the former can save lives and prevent routine complications from becoming extremely dangerous, and the latter as, well . . . desirable to some, but not truly necessary. Canada's health care system, unlike the US's, is government funded, and available to all; blood and organ donors aren't compensated because they're contributing to something that exists for public good, not profit. Ova and sperm donors help some people achieve their desires, but they don't save lives, and they're not necessary for any country's good. I don't think it's really fair to consider all donations equal.

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Milke, with an L, Mrs BD to you, RATS, TMNTP, MF, CWCD, WAOTA

The Earth says Hel-lo!


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cupcake
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I remember part of it too was that we have our own religious right here (albeit a LOT smaller) and they just weren't big on fertility clinics in the first place and stem cell research.
So I think the little proviso was put in that you can use discarded cells from fertility clinics, but you can't harvest them or something.

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UKgirl
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first off, I want to apologise to miz S for any offense caused by my comparison of the two situations. I meant only to compare the principles involved, NOT the severity, and I understand that it may have come accross as very insulting. I'm sorry, and shall try to be more careful in future.

quote:
Originally posted by Miz Scarlet:
(and I'm not sure why you're thinking this would be more so or more of a problem with low-incomes than anyone else, or why a lack of pay would make that better)...

I have yet to hear any argument for women of any social strata getting compensated for putting children up for adoption, a FAR more complicated and lengthy process, with a tangible child involved and giant health issues, and where there usually very much IS serious emotional difficulty. So, if it's okay to be paid for that, why not sperm donation?


the reason I thought it would be more of a problem for those on low income is that I was arguing that financial incentives may cause them to donate when they were not really OK with it themselves, and did not feel that they would be able to emotionally detatch themselves from the resulting child, or the concept that there may be a resulting child.

as for the 2nd bit I'm quoting, I guess thats a good example of our nationalities influencing the way we are seeing this. In the UK financial compensation for mothers giving children up for adoption is illegal. This is muddied a bit by seperate laws on surrogacy, but even then only expenses can be paid, no profit. Therefore over here sperm and egg donation, along with adoption can be seen in similar ways, as things that are done for whatever reasons, but NEVER acceptably for financial gain. I know our own emotions shouldn't really come into our discussion of this, but the thought of women being given any kind of financial incentive, no matter how small, by people to give up her baby, is REALLY upsetting to me.

quote:
Originally posted by BruinDan:
And while I'm sure there must be some guys out there who mourn for the loss of their dear sperm, it is certainly hard to imagine mourning the "loss" of something that is supposed to be forcefully evacuated anyway!

Very good point, this is indeed a very different issue to organ donation. And, if all this sperm was being used for medical reseach, plant feed, hair gel, to test tissues, whatever, I would agree with you entirely. But that isn't the case. this sperm is going to be making babies (and I have no doubt the sperm is very pleased about that!).

Again, I'm going to have to admit my ignorance, I don't really know what legal rights US/Canadian sperm donors have with regards to these resulting children. Don't get me wrong, personally I don't think sperm donors should get visitation to the resulting children or anything, I just think that if men are going to be signing away such rights over children that are genetically "theirs", money, or any form of coecion, shouldn't come into it.


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