Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Known Sperm Donor

Working with a sperm donor that you have any kind of relationship with is very different than finding one through a cryobank.

Because of the extensive amount of information required by sperm-or cryobanks, in order to become a donor, ironically, the cryobanks actually know more about their donors than the donors may know about themselves! This information is gleaned from the questionnaires and medical tests required to proceed.

Simply put, the safest way to proceed with sperm donation is with a sperm bank, vis-a-vis your long term legal rights.

Ironically, the information you acquire from a known donor may not be as complete as the information you obtain when choosing an unknown donor.

You may be considering having a friend become your donor, and perhaps you feel a bit squirrelly about asking some very personal questions of that person. But, ask you must, in order to protect not only yourself, but also and critically, any child born as a result of the donation.

In addition, any sperm donor agreement with your known donor (and yes, you MUST have an agreement in place before the donation is made) may not reflect every possibility of how your life may change in the future. However, if your donor agreement is done with an experienced Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) attorney, they will ensure you have thought about the impact of any life changes on any relationship you may or may not have with the known donor, as well as all relevant issues to be addressed ahead of time. The agreement should address changes that may happen in the future such as marriage, divorce and death. There are many, many possible scenarios, issues and questions. You want to ensure that these are all addressed prior to the actual donation.

Despite your current relationship with your potential known donor, it is simply good sense not to be lulled into a false sense of security, even if the donor is your closest friend or a dear family member. Sadly, some of the worst cases that have been litigated in this field involve a known sperm donor. Often, it is the intent of the parties regarding parenting of a child and the issue of whether the donor meant to be a donor or a parent that becomes an issue. This and other issues, which may seem clear to you when the donation took place may not be so clear later on. This can be rectified if the intent of each party is memorialized in a well-thought-out, drafted agreement which includes legal representation for everyone involved. Remember that you are not only representing yourself but also your child, who has, as yet, no voice in this matter.

Questions you must ask before deciding to work with a known sperm donor (and matters you would have at your fingertips if the donor is from a sperm bank) include:

  • Do you have currently, or have you ever had, an STD and if yes, please specify?
  • Do you have a history of unprotected sexual contact of any kind?
  • Do you have a history of drug use of any kind including long-term prescription medication use?
  • Do you smoke cigarettes?
  • Do you smoke pot and if so, how much?
  • Do you drink alcohol and if so, how much?
  • Are your parents and grandparents alive? If not, at what age did they pass away and from what cause?
  • Do you personally have or does anyone in your family (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings) have a history of the following:
    • Cancer (note type)
    • Heart disease
    • Schizophrenia
    • Depression
    • History of addiction (alcohol or drug use)
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Other mental health issues (note which)
    • Cystic Fibrosis
    • Genetic illnesses of personal concern (note which)
    • Congenital disease
    • Obesity
    • Allergies/asthma
    • Liver disease
    • Eye disease
    • Learning disability (note which)
    • High blood pressure
    • Migraine headaches
    • Stroke
    • Other
  • Do you have a desire to parent a child that results from this donation?
  • What are your current intentions for any child born through your donation (any contact desired, kind of contact, etc.)?
  • Are you planning on letting others in your life know about your donation?
  • Do you anticipate that your parents or other family members may wish to have a relationship with any resulting child?
  • How would you respond if you do not know the resulting child and they wish to meet you and/or pursue a relationship in the future?
  • If you have or will have children of your own, do you visualize them having a sibling relationship with any resulting child from this donation?
  • If you are not able to have your own children in the future, do you anticipate that this will change the relationship you desire to have with any resulting child from the donation?
  • Do you anticipate any change of relationship with the child if you marry in the future (assuming not currently married)?
  • Would you want to be the designated legal guardian in the event of my death following the birth of any resulting child?
  • Would you consider donating again if I wish to have siblings for my child?
  • Would you be willing to have your sperm tested prior to donation?

Also note that if the known donor is your sibling, you will need to map out extensively what your anticipated, ongoing relationships will look like.

Hopefully this list has given you time to think about if a known sperm donor is right for you, and if you and the donor have carefully thought through not only the actual donation, but also future contact and relationship issues.

One other cautionary note - every state has laws regarding sperm donation, how it must be done in order to be a legally recognized sperm donation, and who is a presumed parent. These laws vary state to state. This is yet another reason to consult with an ART attorney in your state about your particular scenario. Surfing the internet, following do-it-yourself in-home inseminations, and even downloading an agreement from the internet will not protect you or the child in the long run. To mitigate any future issues, you must consult with an ART attorney to guide you. The last place you want to be is in the unknown minefield of parental rights, sperm donation, and intent to parent.

Again, the best way to protect all parties involved, and to ensure you have asked and addressed all the relevant questions, is to speak both with a physician about medical testing and questions, and with an attorney knowledgeable in ART who can guide you in this process. In that way, you and the donor are protected. And most of all, the parentage for any resulting child- will be assured from birth.

Note: this is not meant to advise you as to all issues with known sperm donation, but is a jumping off point to ensure a secure process for all involved. This information is not a substitute of legal advice on your personal journey.

Meryl B. Rosenberg is an attorney in private practice and is the director of ARTparenting's comprehensive program devoted exclusively to arrangements and all legal aspects of surrogacy, egg donation, embryo donation, and other matters involving assisted reproductive technologies (ART), as well as step-parent adoptions and second-parent adoptions.