I was approached by a colleague at work in the late 1970's. He had been married and his wife and two small children had been killed in a car accident before I knew him. He had re-married but he had had a vasectomy and after two failed reversal operations, he was looking for a sperm donor so that he and his new wife could have children. I was married with two young children, a graduate and professionally qualified. My wife had experienced her own fertility issues but had conceived naturally to the surprise of the consultant she was under. I suppose the couple thought I would be a suitable donor.
I considered their approach for a while I decided that I would not like to be a known donor in those circumstances. I said that if I could donate to a couple anonymously I would consider that. The couple went on to have two children by donor insemination and I know that they had a very happy life together.
Some years later, when I was working elsewhere, I saw an announcement in the personal columns of a magazine for men with proven fertility. I was thirty at the time. As I had thought, the advertiser was looking for sperm donors. I applied and underwent a number of tests. Having been told that very few men were suitable, I started donating in early 1981 at the Pregnancy Advisory Service (PAS) in Central London. At the time, and before HIV/AIDS, fresh sperm was inseminated so it was crucial to keep appointments and to donate when asked to do so. Two of the doctors who worked at PAS had their own part time practices on Harley Street and one specialised in 'difficult' fertility cases. There were a lot of second marriages where the husband had been sterilised, but I was also told that there were many other types of male infertility where sperm donors were needed. My blood tests revealed that I had O negative blood and I was told that many women who had undergone illegal abortions had not had the anti D injection and were unable to get pregnant if their husbands were rhesus positive and they were rhesus negative. Their only hope was to find a Rhesus negative donor. Some women had given birth to a first child and the anti D injection had not been administered. There were also a large number of women without a male partner who desperately wanted a child. I initially donated through PAS and later I was also asked by the two doctors to donate at their private clinics. Freezing of samples did not come in until some years later. Everything was done on the phone or with contact in person and I never received any communications in writing.
PAS would ring me on a Friday and tell me if they would need me the following week. I would call in to their offices on my way to work, at lunch-time or on the way home. I never saw any of my recipients. PAS and one of the doctors never told me the outcome of my donations, other than that 'I was a successful donor'. The doctor who ran the practice for people with fertility issues would ring and say he had a particular case which he would describe in outline. Many of his patients had compatibility problems with their partner, many had gynaecological problems and some were older. Women having children without a male partner in those days were more unusual, and he would tell me if this was the case. He would ask me if I could help to ‘work with him’, almost as a favour and would call to tell me when to attend at his surgery. Subsequently, usually two or three months later, he would call and say that I would not be required again for that particular case because the woman had "achieved a pregnancy".
The two doctors did not freeze samples and I stopped donating to them about 1983 when this came in. PAS never told me to stop donating and in the end it was my decision to do so, but I did continue for two years after I had said I would stop because they wanted sibling pregnancies. I know from this that PAS must have kept some records at the time because they must have known which pregnancies I was responsible for.
My motives at the time were entirely altruistic. I had children of my own, I knew how much pleasure they gave me and I was touched by the story of my friend and others who were not so fortunate. I was told that the donations would be entirely anonymous and that no-one would ever be able to trace me. At that time no-one generally was interested in tracing their ancestry and to have done so would have been expensive and time-consuming. Attitudes in society were different, with much being unspoken and not acknowledged. Sperm donation was not really acknowledged and it was unregulated. I did think about the offspring who would be produced from my donations but I knew that the people I was helping had a strong desire to become parents. They had to acknowledge their situations to others, they had to seek out a practice which was not generally acknowledged or approved, they had to go through very personal interventions, and they had to be prepared to pay considerable sums of money to do so. In the end they did not obtain a cure for their infertility but they achieved their objective of having children which, to all intents and purposes, were their own. As a donor I was paid, between £5 and £7 per donation, and although this was worth considerably more than it would be today, it was not a huge amount and it was not the reason why I donated since I earned over £9,000 a year at the time, which was a comfortable salary.
Moving forward to the early years of this century, society and its attitudes had changed beyond recognition. Medical science had made the tracing of biological parents easier. People wanted to know their origins and felt they were entitled to do so.
I saw a number of television programmes around 2008 to 2010 which made me realise that many donor conceived people want to have answers. When I saw an article in 'The Times' I came across the UK Donor Link and I contacted them because I could see that many donor-conceived people wanted answers about their biological and genetic origins. I understand the hurt that many have felt and sometimes the pain when they have discovered that they have been deceived in relation to the person they thought was their father. My original intention was to help people who desperately wanted a child, and I signed up to what is now the Donor Conceived Register so that I can now help those conceived from my donations to trace me if they wish to do so.