This is for you if you’ve ever been alarmed by a fertility story in the Daily Mail – and after this I promise I will stop writing about Danish sperm for a while…
I was fascinated to read a piece in the Mail based on the programme I’ve been working on about Danish sperm as the person writing the article seemed to hear a different story to the one we told in our programme – and if you’ve ever been frightened or worried by an IVF scare story in the paper, it may give you food for thought.
Where to begin? Perhaps with the headline claiming “hundreds” of British women are giving birth to babies conceived with Danish donor sperm. Is that hundreds overall, or hundreds a year? It wasn’t a figure we mentioned, and seems to have been plucked from thin air.
We go on to a series of bullet points, where we learn that “Danish sperm now makes up a third of the total used in the UK”. No, it doesn’t. It’s nothing remotely approaching a third of the total used in the UK. It’s a third of the IMPORTED sperm, which is something entirely different – but it sounds good, so let’s not worry about facts here.
We are told that “women” apparently cite the Danes good looks and dependable nature for the popularity of Danish sperm (the women concerned here were in fact Olivia Montuschi of the Donor Conception Network and Ruth Wilde of BICA talking in a professional capacity, but they’re both women aren’t they, so on we go…). Then, with no relevance at all to anything, we are suddenly told that “famously handsome Danes include Nikolaj Coster-Waldaua” as if this has any relevance to anything. I am sure we could come up with some handsome UK actors, but would we list them in an article about UK donor sperm?
And so, the piece continues – we are again given the totally inaccurate fact that 1/3 of sperm used in the UK is Danish. It’s not. We didn’t say it was. We then come to the CEO of European Sperm Bank “chuckling” as she makes a comment – except it wasn’t Annemette Arndal-Lauritzen of European Sperm Bank speaking, it was Laura Witjens of the National Gamete Donation Trust – but hey ho….
We are told that the change in the law concerning anonymity for sperm donors has “compounded” the sperm shortages for British clinics – in fact, Jane Stewart who spoke in the programme about this made it abundantly clear that people realised this was not the case.
The next paragraph concerns the use of anonymous donor sperm which was discussed at some length in the programme – BICA’s Ruth Wilde mentioned the fact that the other large Danish sperm bank Cryos imported anonymous donor sperm direct to people’s homes in the UK, and Juliet Tizzard of the HFEA talked about the grey area in the law concerning this. According to the Mail, which clearly knows better than the HFEA or BICA, Cryos “cannot sell semen from anonymous donors to the UK”.
We then have a quote from BICA’s Ruth Wilde, who I suspect may be quite surprised to learn that she has become a “mother who conceived with the help of a Danish clinic”.
This is one story on one day that I happen to know quite a lot about, having done the interviews myself – so next time you read an IVF scare story, think of the errors here and take it with a large pinch of salt.