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Reflections from the Initial Phase of Our Research

A shadow of a man looking out into the horizon

I’m David Carless, a member of the project team based at the University of the West of Scotland. My primary role is leading Phase 1 of our project, through which we are conducting interviews with recipients, donors, and some of their partners to learn from them, first-hand, what they are experiencing on their online sperm donation journeys. We are using an approach known as narrative research which invites each participant to take the lead—to tell us in detail about the things that have been important for them. The accounts we have been hearing are often powerful and emotive—they take us (and will take those who later access the research) into the lived experience of recipients, donors, and their partners in illuminating and informative ways.

 

We have now recruited a full complement of recipients (13) and donors (14). Everyone has taken part in a first interview, and follow-up interviews are currently underway. Through these, we get to learn of the developments that have occurred over the past 12 months for each participant. The accounts participants have shared with us are rich, complex, and highly insightful. As a team, we are learning so much from each and every participant! Some people’s stories are startling, surprising, or inspiring. I feel privileged to be a witness to participants’ lives, to be taken into their worlds and taught of the opportunities, challenges, relationships, and outcomes they are experiencing through online sperm donation.

 

I’ve been inspired by the determination and perseverance some recipients and their partners have had to muster to pursue their online sperm donation journey. I’ve been moved by the emotional rollercoaster that some participants describe. I’ve been challenged by the seeming contradictions that some face in balancing sometimes competing needs, for example in terms of safety and coherent process versus freedom and flexibility. And I’ve been drawn to consider anew recipients and donors sometimes contrasting expectations of what online sperm donation is and how it should operate.

 

By the end of the project, my overriding desire is to make sure we get it right. Over the coming two and a half years, we will continue working to welcome and truly hear diverse voices, understand those voices as fully as possible, and faithfully communicate what participants have to teach us about online sperm donation to wider public, academic and policy audiences. This, I hope, will allow the project to contribute to improving things for those involved in online sperm donation in the UK and beyond.

 

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