This section has been written to help you understand the purpose and method of sperm storage. We hope that it will answer some of the questions that you may have before, during and after your treatment. If you have further questions, comments or queries that still remain unanswered then please let us know and we will try to provide you with a clear answer.
We will try not to swamp you with technical terms but please ask us to explain if we unknowingly do so. It is important that you help us too by reading all the material we give you and understanding all aspects of sperm storage including the current law.
We see ourselves as caretakers of your gametes that we are storing on your behalf. The law gives you the entire right and the responsibility to decide what should happen to your sperm. We need to look at all possible future circumstances and ask you to record your wishes so that they could be followed strictly.
Regulation of Sperm storage
The storage of gametes is regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990 and 2008, there are a number of guidelines and requirements that must be met before gametes can be stored. It is important that all those involved i.e. the patient, the referring clinician and the unit staff fully understands and complies with the law.
STORAGE OF MATURE SPERM FOR YOUR OWN USE
The following information is for your guidance. For further information please refer to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) website www.hfea.gov.uk
- A licence is required to store mature human sperm.
- The patient’s right to confidentiality in this act prohibits the normal exchange of information between clinicians without specific written consent unless it is deemed necessary for your continuing medical care.
- Before consenting to the storage of sperm you will receive all information and may wish to receive further counselling regarding the implications of taking the proposed steps. This would include an oral explanation supported by relevant written material such as this booklet.
- Anyone consenting to storage of their sperm must give their consent in writing prior to the storage.
- NB Sperm should not be taken from anyone who is not capable of giving their consent. However, a person under 18 years old can, in exceptional circumstances, give consent if it is the intention to use the sperm/ tissue solely for their own treatment and in their life time. It is not essential to obtain the consent of his parent or guardian under these circumstances although we always endeavour to do so. The sperm have to be discarded if the patient does not survive.
The consent must specify one or more of the following:
- ‘whether the treatment is provided for themselves, or themselves and a named partner
- whether the treatment is provided for others
- whether any sperm or testicular tissue obtained can be used for research’
- the maximum period of storage is up to 10 years. There may be possibility of extension after 10 years and up to your age of 55 years, but this will be only in specific cases and each case is judged by us on its own merits.
- what is to be done with the sperm in the event of individual’s death or becoming incapable of varying or revoking his consent. This is a legal requirement.
NOTES FROM THE HFEA CODE OF PRACTICE:
Audit: Centres HAVE TO carry out a periodic review of the status of stored gametes. This is to reconcile the centre’s records with the sperm sample in storage. It is also to review the purpose and duration of storage and to identify any action that may need to be taken.
Counselling: This service is available to all patients undergoing treatment. It can be for discussion of implications, support or therapeutic in nature.
Posthumous use of sperm: Every man storing sperm is required to clearly state his wishes regarding the stored sperm in his consent. The consent signed in the man’s own life time is the only one that can be followed. A difficult situation can arise when a recently bereaved partner returns to the unit requesting the use of these gametes but where a legal consent for this to happen does not exist and when such treatment will not be possible. It is a responsibility of the person storing the sperm to provide directions as to what they wish to happen in the event of their death.
Legal Parenthood in the event of posthumous use of sperm:
- Whenever gametes are used posthumously, the man to whom the sperm belongs must have consented in writing for the stated purpose beforehand.
- The unit will and must legally consider the rights of the unborn child/children in deciding whether or not to conduct treatment.
- Any child born with the posthumous use of the sperm cannot be regarded legally as the child of the individual to whom the sperm belonged without the prior completion of birth registration details on the HFEA form.
HIV, Hepatitis B,C & Syphilis Screening:
- We are required to screen all patients, donors and recipients for HIV, Hepatitis B, C and Syphilis prior to sperm storage.
- Counselling is available prior to undergoing the screening tests.
- The sperm sample is stored in containers that have other similarly screened and negative samples.
- There is a very small theoretical risk of cross-infection when unscreened samples are stored in the same containers. It is however important to note that such an incident has never been reported in the past.
- At the present time we are unable to offer treatment services to individuals who test positive to HIV, Hepatitis B or C.
- By ensuring that we are aware of the HIV and Hepatitis status of our patients we can provide a safe environment for your sperm whilst in storage.