Sharing leftover sperm vials?

A Choice Mom who is always thinking of ways to boost the community emailed recently to suggest a “sperm sharing” service.

Essentially, she wondered whether we could offer a place on the website or discussion boards to facilitate sharing leftover sperm vials with other Choice Moms. There are a few legal reasons why it would be difficult for ChoiceMoms.org to facilitate the sale of gametes (live tissue), and I wanted to open up the conversation here.

First, I consulted with a few of the sperm banks, to get their feedback. Here’s what they told me:

California Cryobank (Scott): Most of our clients with vials in storage are keeping them for future cycles or additional children. When their families are complete, they generally sell unused vials back to us (at 50% of original price). I don’t know many people interested in giving away their unused vials. We do have instances of clients transferring vials to one another, which we facilitate, but there is a $350 fee attached because of the extensive paperwork involved for our Client Services, Accounting, and Cryogenics departments. Vials are legal property, so it is not a simple process to complete a transfer between clients. We provide free storage for clients who buy 6 or more vials, so there aren’t many people paying storage fees for vials they don’t want/need. She may want to check with her physician to see if they have any abandoned vials from previous patients. And she is welcome to post on our message board.”

Seattle Sperm Bank (Kristina): Women who place vials in storage and do not use them are able to sell them back to us at 75% of the original cost. Which makes sharing the vials with one another a less profitable endeavor for those who have already purchased. The Donor Sibling Registry has a section where women can connect and trade vials, etc. That would be the best source that I am aware of for finding vials at a lower price that are no longer needed. I wish your client the best in her search and I am happy to help or offer any other information that would be helpful.”

The Sperm Bank of California (Alice): In general, we do not have a problem with someone purchasing vials from another recipient. However, it does raise some issues that should be addressed. First, we ask that whoever uses the sperm register with us and report conceptions and their outcomes to us. This allows us to track each vial used and give the intended mom access to our programs (such as Family Contact List and Identity-Release® Program) should she be successful. It also allows us to contact the mother should we have any need to in the future. The transaction between the two parties is up to them but we require written documentation from the original recipient that she has given or sold her vials to the other party.

Second, it is tricky if the donor has met his family limit. While we cannot prevent someone from physically transferring vials to another party, we do ask that women consider how they would feel if another family distributed vials from their donor who was at his limit. We work very hard to track all of our outcomes and limit our donors to 10 families and ask that families that work with this respect this limit. [Mikki’s note: if all 10 families shared their vials with just one other family, you now have 20 families using the same donor, which defeats the purpose of TSBCA’s tight control on donor usage.]

Fairfax and Cryogenic Labs (Amy): Clients who have vials stored at a CLI facility can transfer storage to another person using CLI documentation. The original owner needs to release ownership and the new owner and the new owner needs to accept the ownership and complete a storage/billing agreement. It isn’t that common, but we do assist with this ownership change. There is an administrative fee. We have found that clinics will not perform inseminations unless the recipient name is on the packing slip, so we commonly need to go through the ownership change. The clients would work out a money change for the vial(s) on their own without Cryobank involvement. We also work with a vendor that provides financing, which could be helpful for this client.

Cryos International (Ty): We have a refund policy of 75% of the purchase price of the unused units currently stored at our facility. I am not sure if a client would sell specimens at a discount less than what she would receive back from us. However, there are issues where specimens have been shipped to clinics, and clients will contact me to see if we know of anyone interested in purchasing the units. Cryos NY has the policy that, after specimens are shipped, they cannot be returned to be put back in for general sale. However, there may be an opportunity to have these specimens made available to clients looking for specimens at a cheaper price.

So, that’s the word from the sperm banks I consulted. Some good food for thought, and suggestions.

I wish this was something I could help facilitate in the community for those who are looking to reduce costs, but because of the many complications of legal and health precautions needed with gametes, I’m just not in a position to sanction it here.

— Mikki

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