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Sperm storage unloved in Shanghai
( 2003-06-09 10:11) (1)

Modern science is answering the call of men in eastern China who face the possibility of becoming infertile because of medical procedures or accidents.

However, residents in the progressive metropolis of Shanghai seem to be lukewarm on the "fertility insurance" idea.

The Shanghai Human Sperm Bank at Renji Hospital, one of China's five approved sperm banks, started offering the service in March.

But Li Zheng, director of the institution, told China Daily yesterday: "We have only had 10 customers so far and they are all married. They have stored 20 samples of their sperm in our bank because they were to undergo operations on their testicles or other procedures that could have potentially led to infertility."

Saving healthy sperm in the bank is a good way of reducing infertility risks for those men suffering from testicular cancer or other illnesses, which require chemical therapy, where the treatment can damage sperm.

Healthy men engaged in dangerous occupations could also benefit from the service.

But the new insurance option faces obstacles as some men find it hard to accept the concept, in addition to the high costs associated with the process.

"We have to introduce the service to hospitalized male patients first. It will take some time for it to be widely recognized," Li said.

At the moment, it costs 500 yuan (US$60.4) every three months to store the samples, although the price is yet to be officially approved.

Li said the price will be reduced if demand increases.

A city office worker, Sun Yi, said the annual price to store sperm would only allow certain people to use the service.

Annother local in his late 20's, Xu Shen, said he would consider signing on for the service by the time he was 40 years old.

One of the biggest barriers facing the service in China is the lack of a law covering the system.

"The legal void could lead to disputes or open a moral minefield," said Zhang Bin, a lawyer from the Shanghai Kangzheng Law Firm.

Sperm banks have operated since the 1980s in China and doctors say it is safe to store sperm for over a decade.

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