Lesbian couples cause run on Swedish sperm banks
Published: 23 Jul 2009 13:06 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 Jul 2009 13:06 GMT+02:00
A shortage of healthy sperm and a spike in demand from lesbian couples has caused a backlog of artificial insemination applications at Swedish fertility clinics.
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While legislation granting lesbian couples the right to the treatment has increased the demand, Sweden's requirement for non-anonymous donations combined with poor quality sperm has also reduced the supply of donor sperm.
At Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, for example, couples are forced to wait a year-and-a-half for artificial insemination treatment, reported the Göteborgs-Posten (GP) newspaper.
During the spring, the hospital even began actively recruiting new donors in an effort to reduce wait times.
As of July 1st, 2005, female same-sex couples in Sweden were granted the right to fertility treatment in the form of assisted or artificial insemination at Swedish hospitals.
Previously, homosexual women were forced to seek treatment abroad because the Swedish law only permitted married women, or women who living as registered heterosexual partners ('sambo') to receive artificial insemination.
In the wake of the new law, however, wait times at Sahlgrenska have increased from 3 to 18 months.
“We had estimated an increase of around 25 couples per year after the law change. Now there are 90 couples in line,” Inger Bryman, head of gynecology and reproductive medicine at Sahlgrenska,” told GP.
As a result, she explains, the hospital is unable to comply with Swedens healthcare guarantee (vårdgarantin), which is intended to ensure that patients receive treatment within a reasonable amount of time.
Patients needing to see specialists should be able to receive an appointment within 30 days, and should receive treatment within 90 days following a referral for a particular treatment.
“They are clearly having to wait for too long,” said Bryman.
In addition to the increased demand for artificial insemination, Sweden is also facing a shortage of sperm donors across the country.
One of the main causes of the shortage is Swedish legislation which allows children to seek the identity of their biological fathers after they turn 18.
Sweden was among the first countries to grant children conceived through artificial insemination this right, according to a study done at Uppsala University Hospital.
According to healthcare officials, the lack of anonymity deters many prospective sperm donors.
However, the most common reason for the shortage is due to poor quality sperm, either related to deterioration while being frozen or to medical conditions.
Denmark, for instance, has much stronger protection of donor anonymity provisions.
For example, at the Århus-based Cryos in western Denmark, which claims to be the world's largest sperm bank, uses coded identification numbers rather than maintaining a list of donors' names.
The result is that more Swedish women are inseminated in Danish fertility clinics than in Swedish clinics, according to a recent report by The Economist.
In addition to couple looking to avoid extended wait times, single women who have been unsuccessful in attempts to adopt children have also sought treatment at clinics abroad.
“It’s not that unusual. We’re also seeing that single women who tried to adopt are now going to clinics outside the country,” said Kerstin Wedin from Gothenburg’s family services office (Familjerättsbyrån) to GP.