Debunking Myths About Sperm and Egg Donation

The popular media tends to exploit the myths around sperm and egg donation and perpetuate false beliefs about what the process entails. While they may have some of the facts correct, there are also a lot of misconceptions existing as well.  We took a look at some of the more common misconceptions and the realities behind them.

MYTH #1: Anyone can be a sperm donor and the process is easy.

FACT: Anyone who meets the rigid qualifications can be a sperm donor, and it is not an easy process.  According to the Fertility Pro Registry website ( less than 5% of men who attempt to become sperm donors are actually accepted.  While every facility has their own set of qualifications, applicants are screened for STDs, genetic abnormalities and other diseases.  Their physical and psychological backgrounds are checked and they must be able to provide a family health history going back three generations.  They must also be willing to commit to the program for up to 6 months as the screening process alone may take three months.

MYTH #2: Sperm banks are unregulated and can do whatever they want to make money.

FACT: Sperm banks are regulated by the FDA and according to the Fairfax Cryobank, various other state governments.  In California, the Department of Health Services may perform unannounced inspections and if a bank fails the inspection, their license may be revoked.  Furthermore, many banks are accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB) and all follow the guidelines of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).

MYTH#3:  Donors (sperm or egg) may try to interfere or lay claim to my child.

FACT: All donors go into donation situations knowing that their purpose is to help someone who would not otherwise be able to conceive a child on their own.  Donors are fertile men and women who are helping those who, for whatever reason, are dealing with infertility.  If they wanted to have a child, they would typically be able to on their own.  However, it is important to note that anonymous donors usually receive very little information on the intended parents, if any.  In the case of a known (and anonymous donor) this is an issue that should be clearly addressed in the donor contract to ensure that the future interests of the parnets and the child are secured.

Myth: Donors are only in it for the money.

FACT: While there are donors who are interested in the financial compensation, most donors are actually donating because they want to help other start a family.  Sperm donors are actually compensated very little (according to the Fertility Pro Registry, anywhere from $1-$55 per specimen) and while egg donors do receive more financial compensation, they also have to go through a more rigorous process to donate (taking hormonal medications, working with various medical professionals and an attorney).  Further, according to the American Fertility Association, part of the screening process for donors is to assess “need” from “want.”  A potential donor who is looking for the money to pay off her credit card debt is much less likely to pass the screening process than a donor who is looking to pay off student loans as a certain level of responsibility is inferred.  While financial compensation is involved, steps are taken to ensure that donors are not there for the wrong reasons.

For many, gamete donation is the preferred path to take when dealing with infertility.  Being able to separate the myths from the facts is an important step in deciding how to proceed when trying to grow your family.  If you have questions about sperm donation or egg donation, and would like to speak with an attorney, please call 310-598-6428 or email 

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.



Do posthumously conceived kids get Social Security Benefits? The Supremes will decide soon.

Shortly after Robert Nicholas Capato’s death, his wife Karen Capato underwent in vitro fertilization using his frozen sperm and gave birth to twins in 2003. Karen Capato applied for Social Security benefits on behalf of her twins as survivors of a deceased wage earner. The Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied her claim. An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) affirmed, ruling that state intestacy law controls eligibility for survivor benefits for posthumously conceived children under the Social Security Act ("Act"). Therefore, the twins were ineligible for benefits under the applicable Florida law. On appeal, the district court affirmed the ALJ’s reading. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed and ruled that the plain language of the Act entitles the Capato twins, whose parentage is not in dispute, to survivor benefits. Petitioner Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of the SSA, argues that the Act requires the agency to apply state intestacy law to determine whether an applicant is the child of an insured wage earner for the purpose of receiving survivor benefits. In contrast, Respondent Karen K. Capato contends that the Act unambiguously entitles undisputed biological children of married parents to survivor benefits, without referring to state intestacy laws. The Supreme Court’s decision will authoritatively interpret the Act’s mandate on the determination of survivor benefits eligibility, and possibly reflect on the balance between legislative rulemaking and unanticipated progress of science and technology.

Should Karen's child be able to receive Social Security Benefits?  Read the full text of the issue presented on Cornell law by clicking here

Have questions about estate planning, sperm donation or social secuirty benefits?  Call our office for a consultation at 310.598.6428. 

Addressing Health Questions for Children of Sperm Donors

The Washington Post ran a story last week about the medical issues facing children conceived by donor sperm.  In “Sperm-donor children face challenges in learning their medical history” the article discusses the relatively unregulated industry of sperm donation, and the ways that some cryobanks are implementing best practices for screening and updating medical history of their donors. 

The first documented generation of donor-conceived children - those born in the late 1970s to mid 1980s, are all grown up and beginning to have medical questions that may only be answered by the donor whose sperm they were conceived with.  Caring for children of sperm donors has prompted a host of unanticipated issues, ranging from lack of medical histories to the psychological impact of knowing the circumstances of their conception. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 percent of babies born today in the United States are conceived through assisted reproductive technology, a proportion that has more than doubled since 1999.  Anonymous sperm donation represents only a portion of these births, and solid statistics on how many children are conceived this way are unavailable because mothers are not required to report how they become pregnant. 

In most states, adults who were conceived through sperm donation have no legal right to records about their donor.  Before 2005, when the Food and Drug Administration issued donor screening rules - specifying, for example that sperm be tested for communicable diseases - there were no federal regulations of sperm banks.

If you are working with a known sperm donor, the following steps will help you screen, document and update the donor’s medical history:

  • Have the donor answer an extensive questionnaire regarding family and personal medical history.  Make sure to discuss any instances of heart disease, cancer, stroke, etc. 
  • Have the donor undergo extensive blood tests to determine any genetic predisposition to disease.  
  • Meet with the donor and a genetics counselor to discus the results of the blood test and determine the risks posed to your future child.  
  • Have the donor meet with a psychologist to receive a thorough mental health evaluation.  
  • Follow the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s guidelines and quarantine the donor sperm for 6 months prior to using it for fertilization.  
  • Hire an attorney to draft a sperm donor agreement that addresses the donor’s willingness to be contacted in the future regarding medical questions or concerns.  Establish a method of contacting each other in case of emergency of the need to update each other’s medical history.  
  • Keep the lines of communication open.  Many sperm donor’s are willing to be contacted as some point in the future if it is a medical necessity.  Discuss this with your donor and talk about how often, and under what circumstances you will contact him, if at all. 
  • Above all, a solid agreement is an essential element of a healthy relationship between a sperm donor and the intended parent(s).

Have questions about sperm donation?  Call 310.598.6428 or email

A Texas Mother is Closer to Creating her Late Son’s Child

Much debate surrounds this issue of using someone’s sperm posthumously but it usually involves a husband or partner who has passed away.  In this case, it is a mother who is seeking to conceive a child by collecting her son’s sperm while he lay in a coma and on life support.  

According to the U.K.’s Daily Mail, 44-year-old Marissa Evans has found a surrogate in Mexico who is willing to carry her grandchild.  She has also hand-selected an egg donor from a list of potential candidates and now must only secure the financing to proceed with her plan.  

In 2009, Evans’ son, 21-year-old Nikolas Evans, sustained a head injury while trying to break up a fight in Austin where he fell, hit his head and lost consciousness.

The article on cited Tom Mayo, director of Southern Methodist University’s Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, agrees with the sentiment.  Mayo told the Associated Press in 2009 that the desire to replace a deceased child is a classic scenario that, in this case, took a nontraditional turn.  

“This is a tough way for a kid to come into the world.  As the details emerge, and the child learns more about their origins, I just wonder what the impact will be on a replacement child,” said Mayo.  

The United States does not have specific legislation regarding the rights of men on gamete donation following their death, which leaves the decision in the hands of individual clinics and hospitals.  As such, many medical institutions implement in-house policies regarding circumstances in which the procedure would be performed.  

Many ethical issues surround the extraction and use of gametes from cadavers or patients in a persistent vegetative state.  The most debated are those concerning religion, consent, and the rights of the surviving partner and child if the procedure results in a birth.

This complex legal issue can arise in a variety of circumstances.  For a more information and to schedule a consultation with Kesten Law, please call 877-887-4403 or email