This volume offers a survey of the practices of reproductive donation and a discussion of the social and ethical issues that these may raise. Our focus is on collaborative, or third-party reproduction. Here a child is not conceived through sexual intercourse by the parents, but rather the conception is likely to take place in a clinic with others involved in providing the eggs, sperm, embryo or sometimes the uterus in which the fetus grows. Typically in collaborative reproduction, roles are separated, so that these third-party progenitors do not become parents and usually play no part in the lives of the children they help to create. Indeed, it is often the case in collaborative reproduction that the children are unaware of the part that others have played. Within the technologies and practices of assisted reproduction, a child can have up to five progenitors: a social mother, a social father, a biological father (sperm provider), a biological mother (egg provider) and a surrogate (gestational) mother.
There are a number of different reasons why people may turn to collaborative reproduction. It can provide a means of overcoming infertility. So where, for example, a man’s sperm is defective or not produced in sufficient quantity, or a woman no longer has viable eggs because of her age, gametes (egg or sperm) from a third party can provide a substitute. Without such collaborative reproduction, their only other possibility of having a child would be to adopt. The main difference, obviously, is that an adopted child is not a blood relative of either parent.