A New Zealand man’s fatherhood dream is alive after a heart-warming gift from his own dad.
In a case which experts have revealed is very rare, a fertility clinic has successfully lobbied health officials, on behalf of the son and his wife, for permission for the donation of sperm from his father to be made.
The couple require a donation to have IVF treatment because of the man’s inability to produce sperm.
If IVF is successful, the paternal grandfather will also be the baby’s biological father.
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One in four New Zealanders experience infertility. Data released by Fertility New Zealand reveals that of the Kiwi couples who face fertility problems, between 30-50 per cent were related to male issues.
The case was put to the Ministry of Health’s Ethics Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology (Ecart), with the minutes of the meeting showing the body was told: “Being able to have a child who is genetically related to both of the recipients is important to them and the recipient’s father has offered to be a donor for the couple.
“The intended agreement will allow the recipient couple of have a genetic connection that they favour, and on the basis of the information before it the committee agreed that, in and of itself, a father donating to a son is not a barrier to approval of this application.
“If treatment is successful and a child is born the declared intention is that the donor, while a biological father, will be involved in the child’s life as a social grandfather.
“The applicants have stated that they intend to tell the child that his or her social grandfather is also biological father.”
The legal rights of the hoped-for child would transfer to the donor’s son and wife.
The committee considers, determines and monitors applications made by fertility clinics for a range of assisted reproductive procedures and human reproductive research.
Procedures which need approval from Ecart include; clinic-assisted surrogacy, donation of eggs or sperm between certain family members, and embryo donation for reproductive purposes.
The committee’s chairwoman Iris Reuvecamp told the Herald on Sunday that while the case wasn’t a “one-off”, it was a rarity.
“We have had applications along those lines before,” she said. “Obviously then you have a relationship where biologically the sperm is from the child’s grandfather … it allows for people to pass on their genetic material within their family.”
In making decisions on a wide range of applications, Reuvecamp said Ecart considered what the principles and guidelines in the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Act 2004.
They include; the importance of the health and well-being of children, promoting and preserving human health, safety and dignity of present and future generations, the importance of informed consent, and the awareness of, and accessibility to, information about a child’s genetic origins.
Other principles include the “respect and consideration” for Māori needs, values and beliefs, and the “respect and consideration” for different ethical, spiritual and culture perspectives.
Fertility Associates clinician and chairwoman Dr Mary Birdsall – who is also a member of the Ecart committee – said while she couldn’t talk specifically on the most recent case, she could remember “a small number” of previous father to son donations.
“They aren’t particularly common, but they certainly exist,” Birdsall said. “And as long as you look at it from a purely genetic level, it makes a lot of sense … your father has 50 per cent of your genes.
“Within family gamete donations, which is the situation you alluded to with the father donating the sperm to his son, often there is a desire to look within families … for family members that you share genes with.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said the number of applications made to Ecart relating to hoped-for sperm or egg donations between family members were not on the rise.
Between eight to 10 are received annually, with the ministry saying “a large majority of these are approved”.
The spokesperson added the recent case of a father’s sperm donation to his son and his wife was “not common”.
Reasons for infertility can include obesity, low or zero sperm production, cigarette or marijuana smoking, medications, issues reversing vasectomies and illnesses such as mumps.
Up to 40 per cent of women who had problems with their fertility levels were impacted by issues such as tubal problems, endometriosis, disorders of ovulation and autoimmune disorders.
Up to 20 per cent of couples will have unexplained infertility problems.