Organised sperm and egg donation has gone on for decades, as the medical science of fertility treatment has sought to help couples unable to conceive naturally have their own children. Sperm donation is the more common, with men being paid a little money for samples of their ejaculate (although many do it to help family and friends, or out of a wider sense of altruism to help couples they will never meet). Egg donation also takes place, but is both rarer and better remunerated, as the procedures are much more uncomfortable for the woman involved (again, many women donate eggs for altruistic reasons rather than financial ones). Almost always, the sperm is used to fertilise an egg from the woman of the couple wishing to have a child, who then bears the baby herself and brings it up with her partner as entirely their own (cases of egg donation are essentially similar, although the details of fertilisation and embryo implantation are different).
In almost all countries sperm and egg donors have been anonymous, having no contact with the child they have helped to conceive and the parents who bring it up. This is still the cases in most countries, for example the USA, although some donors do choose to waive their right to anonymity and the parents bringing the child up are usually encouraged to be honest with him or her about their origins. The UK, however, brought in new rules in 2005 so that new donors could not be anonymous (the law is not retrospective, so that previous donors can still remain unknown). Under the new UK law a child of donor assisted-conception can ask when they are 18 to be given the details of their biological parent, possibly allowing them to make contact with the donor. This was highly controversial when it was passed, and remains so today. The debate continues, as at present the parents who will bring the child up do not have to put the biological donor-parent's name on the birth-certificate, allowing them to conceal the fact of a donor's involvement from their child. Some argue that the policy of lifting anonymity should therefore be extended to include naming both biological parents on the birth certificate.
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