The week before last saw unprecedented media coverage of the National Sperm Bank run by the National Gamete Donation Trust (NGDT) in partnership with Birmingham Women’s Hospital (BWH). This media attention resulted in a record number of enquiries from men who we hope will go on to become sperm donors and help people make their longed-for families.
The intense media reporting – although welcomed for its potential to have a positive impact on donor numbers – also, unfortunately, introduced some unwelcome misinterpretations of the National Sperm Bank’s upcoming donor recruitment drive: ‘Having the power to give the gift of life.’
We’re aware that this misreporting of our future campaign wrongly focused on sperm donors as ‘Superman’. In doing so, the media incorrectly linked sperm with manhood, manliness and worthiness. In turn, this exacerbated concerns of wholeness and adequacy, and added to the guilt and shame among the very men who we’re working for: men who need donor sperm to create their families. And given that only 1 in 10 men who come forward to be donors have suitable sperm, it also had the potential to alienate them too.
This was not our intention. This is not the message we, both the NGDT and BWH, believe in separately or collectively. Nor is this the type of approach we shall ever take to donor recruitment.
As an organisation, the NGDT:
- never links masculinity with fertility
- does not see sperm donors as ‘Superman’ (but donors do need to have super sperm to survive the freeze/thaw process)
- needs ordinary men to do something extraordinary.
The NGDT works very closely with patient and donor organisations. Our staff, trustees and Advisory Council members comprise donors, parents of donor-conceived people, donor-conceived individuals and professionals working in the field. We strive to ensure patients’ voices are heard and the work we do when recruiting donors is for the recipients’ direct benefit.
We carefully consider every campaign’s impact on all parties, balancing the sensitivities of patients and the donor-conceived but also with the objective to appeal to the average man aged between 20 and 41.
We aim to get it right – every single time. Sometimes the media gets it wrong.
Moving into the future, we look forward to the official launch of our latest campaign and hope that the incredible enthusiasm already shown from potential donors continues. But this won’t be at the cost of the amazing men and women who we’re ultimately working for: the recipients of donated sperm, eggs and embryos.
We believe that those who need donor help should receive the gift of life.