Donor matching: (not) in the red?

In 2011, Genetics, Reproduction on September 27, 2011 at 10:39 am

News broke last week that red-haired sperm donors were being turned away by Cryos, a Danish sperm bank, due to their currently high ‘stock levels’ and lower demand than for donors with other characteristics. The Telegraph quoted Cryos’ director, Oleu Schou, as stating that Ireland provided ‘the only reliable demand’ for red-haired donors. In contrast, an article in the Irish Times indicated that Mr Schou had stated that Ireland was actually in the top 3 of countries with the highest demand for red-haired donors, placed behind Denmark and Germany.

But, irrespective of whether or not Ireland is the place in Europe where red-haired donors are especially in demand, the story draws attention to a long-established approach to donor conception; that is, ‘donor matching’, where the characteristics of donors are (often, but  not always) matched to the characteristics of the intending parent(s). Whilst there are no guarantees that using the gametes from a donor with similar characteristics will necessarily result in a child that will physically ‘match’ the intending parent(s), which clinics should discuss with patients; difficulties can arise where gamete donors with the desired characteristics cannot be found – the example given in the Telegraph article is of the scarcity of Indian sperm donors.

While the practice of donor matching began in the context of the provision of donor sperm to married couples, in order that they might pass as ‘the family’ at a time where secrecy and anonymity in this field were both promoted, the desirability of donor matching is not restricted to those in heterosexual relationships – Caroline Jones has previously explored the significance of implied cultural and racial bio-genetic links in families with two mothers, drawing on small scale empricial research – see Sexualities (2005) Vol.8(2): 221-237.


Other Links



http://www.parentpages.co.uk/family-2/families/no-sex-please-were-danish linking to: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2038499/Sperm-bank-Cryos-turns-redheads-No-sex-Danish.html

  1. It is also interesting to see the impact of social expectations technology formation –for example this paper (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9566.2010.01274.x/abstract)looks at how doctors sought to promote DI and then shifted towards sperm injection because it maintained the expectations of masculinity. (The paper also mentions how at one time the doctors saw DI as producing “better” children.)

    Sexual reproduction –which creates variation rather than conformity -doesn’t really fit well with social views of inheritance (i.e. having our mother’s eyes) and this can cause quite a stir as shown by the recent news article of a set of twins where is black and the other white!
    It seems even when ‘natural’ reproduction is used the children don’t (always) physically match the parents!

    • Absolutely, and many thanks Ingrid for the link to the article on donor insemination in Taiwan – the abstract promises to be a fascinating read!
      Coincidentally I was only reading (belatedly) the Guardian article this morning … really interesting to observe social views on inheritance and how challenging this has proved for the twins (and family), at certain times during their lives – and yes, a case in point regarding reproduction and the limitations of (potential) physical matching!

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