Adverts urging us to “give blood” and “become an organ donor” have become familiar sights these days, but medics in the Capital are now making an urgent appeal of a different kind - asking men to donate sperm.
Seven years after it was shut down in the wake of changes to the law ending anonymity for sperm donors, the NHS is relaunching the Edinburgh Sperm Bank in a bid to tackle a shortage of samples.
It is hoped healthy men from across Lothian, aged between 18 and 40, will view becoming a donor in the same altruistic way as giving blood or signing up as an organ donor.
The doctors behind the appeal are stressing how it will offer a lifeline to couples who are desperate to become parents.
Potential donors will be offered an appointment with a counsellor to ensure they understand the implications, a full health check as well as £350 in exchange for 10 donations.
Graham Mackenzie, a consultant in public health with NHS Lothian, said that sperm had become increasingly difficult for the health board’s fertility service to source in recent years.
He added: “We’ve struggled to get any sperm. We want to have a locally-provided service and local donors, that’s by far the best way of doing it. We can provide treatment to many more people because it’s much cheaper to access sperm than from commercial services.
“We’re keen to have donors from across society so it reflects the wide range of requirements people have. This is really about men who want to help others have a family. You can view it in the same way as giving blood or an organ. It’s not a simple decision, but some people choose through altruism to give donor sperm.”
Around 100 people in the region waiting for fertility treatment could benefit from sperm donations. The service was relaunched this week and a publicity campaign is set to get under way to attract donors.
Eligible men will complete an initial questionnaire, before going through medical and genetic testing. If they are deemed suitable, they will be asked to make ten donations over up to three months at what NHS Lothian has called its “production facilities”.
Jacqui Doran, andrology lab manager, will help run the service. She said two specialist suites at the Royal Infirmary have been set aside for donors, after being kitted out with sofas and appropriate “reading material”. She said: “We try to make them not as clinical as normal rooms in the hospital so it’s as comfortable for donors as possible.”
Up to ten families could be created
Donations from men who sign up to help the sperm bank will be used to create up to 10 families.
The Edinburgh Sperm Bank closed seven years ago due to both a lack of funding and changes to the law which meant men giving donations were no longer granted anonymity.
It meant that children could eventually trace and contact their biological father, after reaching 18.
And it was feared that the development would put the majority of men off becoming donors. However, sperm banks have recently been relaunched in other parts of Scotland and have been successful in attracting donors. For information on how to donate visit www.edinburghspermbank.org.uk