An end to unlimited egg and sperm donation?
At the moment, there is no limit in Czechia to the amount of times somebody can donate their egg and sperm cells for assisted reproduction. But the government wants to change that with a centralised register of donors that they hope will stop overzealous individuals and inadvertent inbreeding.
Many were shocked by the recent fertility scandal that rocked the Netherlands: the case of Jonathan M, a 41-year-old man suspected of fathering more than 550 children through sperm donations. He was taken to court by a foundation protecting the rights of donor children and was ordered to stop donating.
But, it turns out, there is nothing to prevent a similar situation happening in Czechia. At the moment, there is no upper limit to the amount of times a person can donate egg or sperm cells, and no records are kept of previous donations. Moreover, clinics are under no obligation to share any information about donors with each other.
However, a new proposed amendment to the law on egg and sperm donation may change all that. The proposal, which came at the instigation of the Ministry of Health, envisions the creation of a register of egg and sperm donors. Štěpán Machač, head of the Assisted Reproduction Section of the Czech Gynaecological and Obstetrics Society, says this would prevent unlimited donations.
“The idea is that we would know how many times a person has already donated. There is a not entirely unfounded fear that children from the same donors would be born in the same village and then might marry and have children together, with all the genetic consequences that entails.”
Another justification for the register is to have a record of people screened or banned from donating, for example because they have an inheritable genetic condition. At the moment, there are no such records, so if, for example, a child was born using a donated egg or sperm and turned out to have a genetic condition that had not been detected by the pre-donation screening tests, then in theory, that donor should not be allowed to donate again. However, in practice, there is no way to enforce this, as reproductive clinics are at present under no obligation to share this or any other information with each other.
The new amendment would mean that reproductive clinics would be obliged by law to send data and report information about their donors to a central state register. However, the anonymity of donors would continue to be preserved, so children born using donated eggs or sperm would still not be able to find out who their biological parents are.
Senator Jitka Chalánková from the TOP 09 party says she welcomes the move.
“I think that these things should be under the supervision of the state, because it is not right to rely only on private entities to have certain information about donors. Also with regard to the countries around us, because we have become a destination for this type of tourism.”
Her final remark refers to the fact that in recent years, Czechia has become a destination for foreign couples seeking infertility treatment, with Czech Radio reporting that up to 85% of eggs donated by Czech women go to foreigners. In 2020, for example, despite Covid and lockdowns, over 3,500 couples travelled to Czechia from abroad for fertility treatment.
The reasons for this, according to the latest yearbook published by the Institute of Health Information and Statistics (ÚZIS), are the intensive marketing campaigns of assisted reproduction facilities, which highlight the high-quality treatment in Czechia, the large number of female donors, and the fact that the donation system is anonymous.
The proposal now has to go through parliament before it becomes law, but according to Czech Radio, it seems to have fairly wide support among senators and MPs.