Economics, Literature and Scepticism

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I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Paying for Sperm?

Posted by Simon Halliday | Thursday, November 20, 2008 | Category: , |

Take a look at this post by Daniel Hamermesh at the Freakonomics Blog. The second comment, by a lady named Rachel argues for the introduction of material incentives, i.e. payment, for sperm in the UK. Such incentives are already in place in the US and, as far as I know, involve drug screening and, obviously, screening for STDs.

Another comment, further down the page mirrors the comment that I made earlier in reference to payment for organs and the Tittmus problem. As a consequence of introducing payments for blood altruists were crowded out and drug users tried to use the system to get money. After several blunders this was corrected for and donors went through stricter screening procedures.

Anyway, the point is that I think that probably, in the case of sperm where there is a clause that allows the child to find out the identity of their donor-parent when they are 18 (a historical anonymity clause was repealed) they system could allow for improvements in the number of individuals who donate, assuming that the Titmuss related altruists are not crowded out by the introduction of material incentives and that the screening protocols result in no addicts and STD carriers donating sperm.

One of the other commenters noted how sperm donations have gone up regardless of the introduction of the new clause. I would not claim the new clause was causative in any way. However, there are still several thousand people who fall short of getting sperm for their babes. Crazy times.

Would I consider donating sperm? I don't know. I'd have to ask my wife's opinion on the potential of having a child with my genetic material whom I had not conceived with her potentially arriving on the scene in 18 or so years time. Might material incentives help? Well, it depends on how big they are? Also, do they just want sperm, or do they want high quality nerdy sperm (if I may be so bold, lol)? If so then maybe I should donate. Still unresolved though. It's those little touches of altruism...

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