Sperm banks drying up as donors shy away
 
Agence France Presse
February 20, 2001
SINGAPORE

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SINGAPORE'S sperm banks have seen a dramatic drop in donors due to tedious requirements, lack of financial incentives and sheer male shyness, according to a report published Feb 20.

The city-state's three sperm banks, however, have refused to follow the lead of sperm banks in the West which offer lucrative cash incentives for sperm donations from intellectuals and supermodels, opting instead to appeal to a sense of national service and altruism.

Singapore, a multi-racial island of just over three million people, has a fast-ageing society and needs more babies to replenish its native population. Couples are being encouraged to have more kids after a birth-control campaign in previous decades proved too successful.

A study by Project Eyeball, a tabloid and Internet website belonging to the same group as the Straits Times, showed that there were 40 to 50 donors at the National University Hospital (NUH) sperm bank from 1990 to 1994. In the past three years there were only 15 donors. Sharp drops were also reported by two other sperm banks.

Dr Chong Yap Seng, coordinator of the NUH sperm bank, said it was hard to convince Singaporean men that donating their sperm is essential.

"Many still see the problem as one of fate, that the couple can't have children, and that it's not a life and death situation," he said.

A mini-poll conducted by Project Eyeball showed that four in 10 men would donate sperm -- for money. But the sperm banks were against commercialising donations.

Dr Fong Yang of the Singapore General Hospital said donating sperm "is supposed to be an altruistic thing" to help couples hindered by infertility problems, suggesting instead that a "transportation allowance" of S$150 (US$86) be increased a little.

Apart from lack of cash incentives, the donation process is too troublesome, doctors said, with men who want to provide their sperm having to undergo screening for diseases and sperm quality, a process than can take six months.

There is also the fear of consanguinity or close relatives getting matched, which doctors called a very remote possibility.