Red traffic light symbolising rules for fertility clinics in Australia

Did you know that fertility clinics in Australia risk having their certification suspended or withdrawn if they don’t conform to certain practices?1

While Commonwealth and state and territory legislation have not been able to keep up with assisted reproductive treatment (ART), there are standards in place to ensure Australian fertility clinics toe the line, and clinics are audited regularly.


What does this mean for you as a sperm donor recipient?

If you are using a fertility clinic – or an independent fertility specialist – to undergo treatment with your fertility clinic-recruited, international or even your known sperm donor, then make sure they are taking care of you as per the following guidelines:


1. Your eligibility to use donor sperm

If your Australian fertility clinic tells you that you are unable to select the five foot ten, brown-eyed, school teacher of Irish descent from the list of donors because you are Asian/lesbian/single/a person of colour/Catholic (and so on) because Mr. Irish has indicated on his consent form that he doesn’t wish to procreate with you, then the clinic is in breach of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (MHMRC) ethical guidelines*. Australian fertility clinics cannot collect donations from men who wish to be selective about the recipients of said donations, because this is discriminatory.

If however, you select a known donor (I.e. a friend or acquaintance) and are sending him to the fertility clinic to undergo screening, then he can indicate on his consent form that you are to be the one and only recipient of his donation.2


2. Sperm donor family limits in Australia

Unlike some sperm banks in the U.S.A., where family limits are as unrestrained as Monarch butterflies in the spring, Australian fertility clinics must take reasonable steps to ensure that the number of families who use a donor is minimised.3 Where legislation exists (legislation trumps the ethical guidelines), the following limits apply: in Victoria the family limit is ten,4 NSW is five5 and WA is also five.6

In states where there is no legislation, a maximum of ten families is recommended.


3. Paying your Australian sperm donor

While discussions continue in Australia about whether we should pay sperm donors, it is absolutely, unequivocally against the law to pay for gametes (eggs and sperm) in Australia right now.7 Experts believe that paying sperm donors (and egg donors) opens up the possibility of exploitation, and that the subsequent risk to donors, recipients, and most importantly, children is too great.

On the other hand, it is quite acceptable to reimburse your known donor for ‘verifiable out-of-pocket expenses’, as long as they are directly associated with the donation (and fertility clinics will also reimburse the donors they recruit).

What does this mean exactly? For example, you (or your fertility clinic) cannot pay for your donor’s new car, but you can pay for the petrol to get him to the clinic – or to your house – for his accommodation, legal fees and so on.8


4. Using imported sperm from an international sperm bank

If you want to use an international donor from say, Denmark, U.S.A. or the U.K., then your clinic needs to have a contractual agreement with a sperm bank or fertility clinic in the relevant country. And the manner in which those sperm samples are obtained must be consistent with Australian standards (although I’m still unclear how we’re allowed to use sperm from countries where donors are paid per sample, and why my daughter has 100+ siblings). 

Anyway, this means that if you are directed to a website to select your international donor, you can only select donors that comply with Australian regulations and guidelines.9 For example, if there are anonymous donors listed on the website, your Australian fertility clinic is not permitted to clear a space in the freezer for these men’s sperm.


5. Accurate identification of all gametes (eggs and sperm) and embryos

Around the globe there have been many documented instances of embryo ‘mix-ups’: white Caucasian parents giving birth to a mixed-race baby;10 dark-haired, olive-skinned Mediterranean parents having a pale redheaded child,11 and so on. (I couldn’t find any cases in Australia, so hopefully we can all breathe a sigh of relief?)

Just so you know, fertility clinics are required to have procedures in place that ensure your donor’s sperm sample, and your precious embryos are correctly labeled and transferred into the correct uterus.12

Everyone calls my daughter a ‘mini-me’ so I’m safe, but don’t be afraid to ask the embryologist and the fertility specialist if they’re absolutely, positively, 100% certain the precious bundle in their hands belongs to you.


6. Record keeping at fertility clinics in Australia

Imagine that sickening feeling in your gut the moment you call your fertility clinic to ask about the existence of half-siblings for your donor-conceived child, and they say, “Um, we can’t find any records of your child’s birth/sperm donor/siblings…”. (Unfortunately, there have been instances of this in Australia).

Your fertility clinic must have policies and procedures in place that are adequate to follow, and that allow for the collection, storage and release of relevant information.13


7. Innovative practices in fertility clinics

If you’re having trouble conceiving and your fertility specialist tells you she has this amazing new ‘thing’ that she does (and that no one’s ever heard of) and that this ‘thing’ will increase your chances of fulfilling your dreams by 57%, just tell her to stop right there.

Australian fertility clinics who wish to introduce changes into their routine practice must not only evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the practice, they must also seek advice from an independent body, and consider the legal and ethical issues that might apply. The clinic must provide you with all of the relevant information available, and then obtain your consent in writing.14 This guideline applies even in the instance where there is only one individual or couple undergoing the ‘thing’.

If that one individual is you, make sure you do your homework.


8. Complaints process for Australian fertility clinics (including fertility specialists)

If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t feel comfortable with what your fertility clinic is suggesting, (or not suggesting) doing, (or not doing), and so on, don’t be afraid to speak up. All Australian fertility clinics must have a complaints process and policy in place, and the policy must describe the line of responsibility for your complaint.15

If you do not feel satisfied with the outcome of your complaint, you can escalate your complaint to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) or the Office of Fair Trading (contact the state office where you underwent ART treatment).


You and your donor-conceived child are important!

Good luck with your search for a sperm donor, (and a fertility clinic in Australia if this is your path), and most importantly, don’t forget:

“Fundamental to the delivery of ART services is that patients and their offspring remain the most important consideration in all decisions.”

The RTAC Code of Practice16


I’d love to hear from you if you have an experience using a fertility clinic in Australia that you’d like to share!





*The Reproductive Technology Accreditation Committee (RTAC) is a subcommittee of the Board of the Fertility Society of Australia. RTAC is responsible for granting licenses to fertility clinics, and for setting standards via both the RTAC Code of Practice and the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) Ethical guidelines on the use of assisted reproductive technology in clinical practice and research.17


# While we have exercised due care in ensuring the accuracy of the information on this blog, it is for educational purposes only, provided by a non-medically and legally qualified individual or organisation, and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice. See Terms of Use for more information.

Fertility Clinics in Australia – 8 Rules you Need to Know
  1. Fertility Society of Australia, Reproductive Technology Accreditation Committee Certification Scheme (RTAC Scheme), May 2016, 7.5 Certification Decision, p.13.
  2. National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Canberra, Ethical Guidelines on the Use of Assisted Reproductive Technology in Clinical Practice and Research, 2017, 5. Use of donated gametes in ART activities, Accepting and allocating gamete donations, 5.1 Respect the donor’s wishes, p. 41, 2017.
  3. NHMRC, Ethical Guidelines, 2017, 5. Use of donated gametes in ART activities, p. 42.
  4. Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act No. 76 of 2008 (Vic), s. 29 (Austl.).
  5. Assisted Reproductive Technology Act 2007 (NSW), s. 27 (Austl.).
  6. 6. Human Reproductive Technology Act 1991, (WA) Directions, Part 8 (Austl.).
  7. Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction Act 2008, s. 17 (Austl.).
  8. NHMRC, Ethical Guidelines, 2017, 5. Use of donated gametes in ART activities, p. 43-44
  9. NHMRC, Ethical Guidelines, 2017, 5 Use of donated gametes in ART activities, p. 44
  10. Meredith Rodriguez, ‘Lawsuit: Wrong sperm delivered to lesbian couple’, Chicago Tribune, (1 Oct 2014), <>, accessed 27 July 2018.
  11. Maggie O’Farrell, ‘IVF Mother: I love him to bits. But he’s probably not mine’, The Guardian, (30 Oct 2009), <>, accessed 21 Dec. 2017.
  12. NHMRC, Ethical Guidelines, 2017, 7. Responsibilities of the clinic for stored gametes and embryos, p. 55.
  13. NHMRC, Ethical Guidelines, 2017, 9. Record keeping and data reporting, p. 83.
  14. NHMRC, Ethical Guidelines, 2017, 10. Innovative practice, training and quality assurance, p. 87.
  15. NHMRC, Ethical Guidelines, 2017, 3. Application of guiding principles in the clinical practice of ART, p. 27.
  16. The Fertility Society of Australia, Code of Practice for Assisted Reproductive Technology Units, 2017, Introduction, p.4, <>, , accessed 27 July, 2018.
  17. The Fertility Society of Australia, <>, accessed 27 July, 2018.

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