X Close

The EU is set to ban paying for sperm

No precious bodily fluids for sale here

September 20, 2023 - 10:30am

Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper was the villain of that darkest of comedies, Dr. Strangelove. The embodiment of Cold War paranoia, Ripper was obsessed by the Communist threat — and in particular the danger posed to our “precious bodily fluids”.

But has this maniac become a prophet? If one swaps the Soviet Union for the European Union, it turns out that bodily fluids are very much on the political agenda.

According to a report from Brussels Signal, “the European Parliament has approved a draft regulation banning payments for breast milk, sperm, blood and other ‘substances of human origin’ (SoHO).”

The free market economist Alex Tabarrok is opposed to these restrictions. Writing for Marginal Revolution, he argues that “paying donors of blood, sperm and breast milk is an ethical way to increase the quantity supplied and it can be done while ensuring that the donations are high-quality and safe.”

By way of evidence, he points to countries that allow payments for donors — and have become net exporters of SoHO products. The US, for instance, is the world biggest’s exporter of human sperm. The symbolism of an over-regulated Europe becoming ever more dependent on American productivity is almost too much to bear.

On the other hand, Tabarrok thinks that the principle of a EU-wide set of rules is a good one. That’s because standardisation would allow a “greater flow across borders”. The phrasing is unfortunate, but that’s not my only problem here. While a single market in SoHOs may be more efficient, moral questions are best settled on a national basis.

Let’s start with blood. In the UK, a full donation is 470 ml or roughly four-fifths of a pint. In less fortunate circumstances, it would take a pretty serious injury to lose that much. Though the donation process is safe — and for some people relaxing — commercialising it seems wrong. That’s not just because of the incentive for over-donation, but because it undermines the principle of civic duty. The fact that millions of people freely (and literally) give of themselves to save a stranger’s life is precious indeed. Paying for blood might work, too, but what sort of a country are we?

Each fluid brings a different set of ethical considerations. For instance, sperm donation is about creating a life, not saving one. Whatever one might think about anonymous paternity, there are good reasons for placing strict limits on the number of recipients per donor.

These are deeply sensitive matters. Whatever the law says about them also says a lot about the society to which it applies. The EU is not a society, so to have its cumbersome apparatus interpose itself is inappropriate. What next? A standard set of rules on surrogacy, abortion and euthanasia?

No thanks. I want issues like these settled in my country, by politicians, campaigners and commentators debating in my language. The committee members of Brussels should mind their own bodily fluids.

Of course, Brexit means that Britain need not be standardised. There’s no guarantee we’ll come to the right judgements — but at least they’ll be ours.


Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.

peterfranklin_

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

15 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Alan Gore
Alan Gore
10 months ago

In the US, we used to have an incentive system called blood banking: for every blood donor, an account was maintained that kept track of the number of units that person had donated. If you later needed blood for surgery, or a relative needed blood, you could “spend” units from your personal account to satisfy that need, rather than the patient being charged for that blood. If a public appeal went out for donation of blood to, say, a wounded police officer, you could donate by signing over units from your blood account.
The blood banking system kept the nation in adequate blood supply for years, without the ethical fishiness of cash payments. But eventually the greedheads in hospital billing departments stopped supporting blood banking, in favor of charging every patient for blood units used, regardless of how many units that person may have donated. What this means is that hospitals are perennially short of blood, and “donation centers” as they are now called, have to continually wheedle for the public participation they once counted on.

Alan B
Alan B
10 months ago
Reply to  Alan Gore

Very interesting. Thanks!

RM Parker
RM Parker
10 months ago
Reply to  Alan Gore

Fascinating piece of history, thank you for that. It certainly appears to be a sensible policy in a “user pays” system: too bad that the whole thing became subverted by greed.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
10 months ago

Typical of the EU’s technocratic overreach; what else can they get their mits on? It’s never, ever enough and should hopefully prove to be their Achilles’ heel in the end.

Nevertheless, paying for products is fraught with risks as in the blood product scandal which is only now being faced up to. That was meant to be an ‘easy market solution’ to a new supply shortage. Look how that turned out.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
10 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

The bureaucrats have to justify sitting around in councils whilst drawing humongous salaries.

William Shaw
William Shaw
10 months ago

Donating sperm is an idiotic thing to do.
 It should be banned.
 Just wait till the donor has half a dozen teenagers banging on his door seeking an emotional connection and financial support.
It’s also used by women who want to add to the plague of single parents and emotionally damaged children. It’s amazing that a woman who hasn’t been able to form a single long term stable intimate relationship with another human being during their 35 or 40 years of life on Earth thinks they can raise an emotionally healthy, well adjusted child.

Last edited 10 months ago by William Shaw
John Greatorex
John Greatorex
10 months ago

Third-party anonymous donation of gametes is just morally wrong, whether or not there is a financial incentive for the donor. Genetics are important and the psychological toll on the children conceived in this manner should not be underestimated. The proliferation of this industry is yet another tool wielded in order to deconstruct family and our society.

Last edited 10 months ago by John Greatorex
Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago

I’m upset too, Dimitri.

I’m capable of being just as upset as you…

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

“Has he got a chance? Hell yeaah !!!”

RM Parker
RM Parker
10 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the war room.

D Walsh
D Walsh
10 months ago

I’ve been giving it away for free for decades

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
10 months ago

Oooooh. I’ve been cancelled.

Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
10 months ago

When I donate blood here in the USA I am rewarded with some cookies and juice after the donation. Neither I, as the donor, or the recipient get to know one another. This is all fine by me and I am happy to donate.

Mark 0
Mark 0
9 months ago

There’s a big difference between blood and gametes though.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
9 months ago
Reply to  Mark 0

Gametes can produce a child who has or should have the right to know where it came from, any undesirable traits the biological father’s family might have as well as long term health conditions or health conditions that can run in families. It should never be about the “rights of the parents” ( can be gay or lesbians couples as, well as straight women) as there is no human right which is a right to parenthood.