Anonymous Semen Donation: Medical Treatment or Medical Kinship?

Jennifer Speirs


Opinion in European countries has been divided over whether people conceived with donated gametes (semen, eggs and embryos) should be able to obtain identifying information about their genetic (donor) parents. Despite the increasing number of countries whose laws now permit access to such information, many in the infertility treatment business remain opposed
to or anxious about this change of legislation. Based on ethnographic fieldwork on social aspects of anonymous semen donation, including unstructured interviews with doctors in the UK who had donated between the late 1960s and early 1980s and with doctors currently in clinical practice in several European countries, I show in this article how although anonymous semen donation is used to circumvent childlessness caused by male infertility, it is also a wayfor doctors to wield influence in the domain of kinship and family formation.

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