Last updated at 14:24 BST, Thursday, 27 September 2012

Danish sperm donor passes on disorder

Summary

27 September 2012

Denmark's health authorities are tightening rules on sperm donation after one donor was revealed to have passed a rare genetic disease to at least five of the 43 babies he's thought to have fathered.

Reporter:

Beth McLeod

Woman holds a semen sample

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Known only as donor 7042, the man gave sperm to the Nordic Cryobank in Copenhagen. Current regulations in Denmark say that the number of women who can be impregnated by the same donor should be limited to 25. But he's thought to have fathered 43 children and at least five of them have been diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 1.

This rare genetic condition affects the nervous system, and in its most severe form can lead to learning difficulties and blindness. Mia Noegaard is one of the women who received sperm from the donor, and says the bank continued distributing the sperm after the alarm was raised that there might be problems with it.

The Danish Health and Medicines authority also criticised the Nordic Cryobank for not telling fertility clinics quickly enough about their suspicions. But the director of the bank, Peter Bowers, said they acted as fast as they could. He also denied that their screening procedure was to blame.

Denmark is popular with women who want to conceive using artificial insemination because it's one of the few countries in Europe that allow donors to retain their anonymity. From the 1st of October a new law will reduce the number of women who can be impregnated using one sperm donor down from 25 to 12. It will also require sperm banks and fertility clinics to act more quickly and stop the use of sperm that could pass on an inheritable disease as soon as a suspicion is raised.

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Vocabulary

donor

person who gives, or donates, something

sperm

the male reproductive cells

impregnated

made pregnant

diagnosed

identified with

(sperm) bank

a place where sperm is stored and used to impregnate women

screening procedure

the process of examining donors

artificial insemination

the process of making a woman pregnant by artificially putting sperm inside her

inheritable

that can be passed from parent to child

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