The chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) wrote in the Telegraph last week that donating eggs and sperm should be something commonly considered by anyone able to do so. She further stated that donors should be welcomed at clinics, and that centres of excellence should be set up to provide a service specifically orientated towards donors, citing that the present situation is not helpful to donors.
Altrui is started to address just such issues. We know that donors need a lot more support and care than just being left to ‘get on with it’ in an environment that is frequently well out of their normal experience and not designed and organised for altruistic donors. Lisa Jardine is right; this is just what is needed. However there are two major considerations not addressed here:
Firstly, neither egg nor sperm donation is anything like giving blood for most people. There may be a small number who view it as such, but they are not the majority. It has far, far, greater implications than giving blood, entails serious responsibility and commitment and is medically a great deal more intrusive, especially for egg donors. These factors alone make it quite different and not something that can be talked through in a pub with the idea that, having done so, they can then pop along and donate.
Secondly, almost nobody has any idea about the amount of work needed to recruit and look after donors properly. We spend hours with donors, making sure that they know exactly what is involved and that they feel comfortable with every aspect of the donation process, and even more with clinics trying to make sure that these donors are not then left without contact for too long and are fully supported on their journey. The hours needed are extensive and until clinics have efficient structures in place for dealing with donors, altruistic donation will not flourish, no matter how much it is opened up and discussed in the public domain.
We recognised that donors were not being properly cared for and set out to redress this imbalance and, from the start, intended to change the impersonality of donation and provide a really good service for both donors and recipients. But it is obvious, and such a shame, that these amazing and generous women who work with us, still find it difficult to discuss donation with others.
As for the centres who work with donors, they MUST recognise that altruistic donors are not patients, have busy lives, don’t want to be put out with changed or inconvenient appointments and deserve the respect of everyone who looks after them. So many things to change!