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Sperm Banks in Greece Unregulated, Pose Serious Risks

As if an economic crisis and an EU bailout weren’t enough, it now comes to light that Greece’s sperm banks are unregulated.

Greek newspaper Kathimerini today reported that no one in the country can answer questions such as how many children a donor has helped to conceive, or even how many pregnancies in Greece are the result of sperm bank use.

That’s because new laws about assisted reproduction haven’t yet been enforced by the Greek Health Ministry, and the National Authority for Assisted Reproduction stopped operating in 2010. As a result, sperm banks all across the European country are operating without monitoring or centralized reporting.

It was NAAR’s responsibility to keep all records from fertility clinics and sperm banks in Greece. But now, since NAAR is no longer around, each facility is supposed to keep its own records. Some don’t because it’s expensive to do so. And there’s no agency doing any cross-checking between clinics. In theory, therefore, a man could donate at multiple sperm banks and no one would ever know.

“A donor may be the father of as many as 70 children around the country, raising a serious risk of accidental incest in 20-25 years’ time,” embryologist Haris Kazlaris told Kathimerini.

“Furthermore, the absence of a record is in violation of European regulations, which require that all genetic material is traceable between the donor and the recipient. Normally, the authority should know exactly who received whose material, and this is not the case. Moreover, a woman wanting to have a second child through a sperm bank cannot always do so with the sperm of the same donor used for her first child.”

Greek fertility doctors are also worried about the unregulated import of sperm from outside the country, since demand for donors in Greece far outstrips the supply.

“Who knows under what conditions it is harvested and transported?” said Kazlaris.

There are around 70 fertility clinics and three sperm banks in Greece. It’s estimated the number of people in the country trying to use donor sperm is about 10,000 – 15,000 each year.

Though health professionals have been pushing for reforms and regulations, the former head of the NAAR is not optimistic the situation will change anytime soon, leaving Greek women in search of sperm donors in a precarious limbo.

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