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Should all men freeze their sperm at 18? One bioethicist thinks so


Sperm donoring. So often the plot device for comedy actors to perform gooey pratfalls (see Ted 2 when it hits cinemas) and now possibly the norm for a future generation of young men in the UK. 

Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Dr Kevin Smith, a leading bioethicist from Abertay University in Dundee, urged for the NHS to create a universal sperm bank in which the sperm of all 18-year-olds should be frozen for use in later life.

With children of older fathers statistically more at risk of low IQ, autism and even suicide, Smith believes that government healthcare has a responsibility in ensuring the sperm of young men is kept frozen at the turn-of-adulthood, which they could go back to when they reach 40 or beyond. A move he believes will significantly decrease the risk of diseases and defects in a generation of children.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: "I think on a society-wide basis, we do need to worry about it - it is a very real and pronounced effect – it’s time we took seriously the issue of paternal age and its effect on the next generation of children."

Some of Smith’s peers, however, remain dubious. The British Fertility Society said such a system would “provide a very artificial approach to procreation,” while Allan Pacey, a professor of andrology at the University of Sheffield, was even more blunt with his reaction, telling the BBC it was “one of the most ridiculous suggestions I have heard in a long time.”

He added: “We know that the sperm from the majority of men won't freeze very well, which is one of the reasons why sperm donors are in short supply.”

Currently, it costs £150-£200 per year to keep sperm with a private sperm bank. Smith is hoping an NHS equivalent would seriously reduce that cost and ensure more men have the option to become a father later in life and with a premium sample as well, supposedly at its best age 18. But considering the lack of donors right now, would teens actually be interested in making a deposit?

The facts suggest so: the average age of all fathers at the birth of their child has gone up by nearly two years over the last two decades, increasing from 31.1 years in 1993 to 32.9 in 2013, and follows a similar pattern for women, whose own average age of giving birth rose from 27.9 in 1993 to 30 in 2013.

It appears this change in pattern isn’t just a social one, but a fiscal one. We all know men and women are equally keen to climb the career ladder before settling down, but with more young couples renting than ever, it isn’t too far-fetched to think that factors like affording to buy in a seriously expensive housing market could mean this pattern of couples postponing paternal duties could rise even further.

What do you think - should freezing sperm at 18 be the norm or is fatherhood fine as it is? 

Let us know your thoughts below:

[Images: Allstar]



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