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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Is the Drive Through Sperm Bank Around the Corner

Article first published as Is the Drive-Through Sperm Bank Around The Corner? on Technorati by ME!

The term "Sperm collector" inspires some troubling mental images most of us could do without. Yet, we know at least one Chinese inventor spent some time on the idea. A Chinese Company called the Sanwe Medical Group recently launched such a contraption to speed the, ah-hem, “production” and collection of male sperm.

The machine, which looks like a cross between a podium and atm, runs for $2800 dollars and comes equip with everything you’d probably rather not imagine. From the etch-a-sketch like screen to play your favorite pornographic material to a rather ominous looking pink hole where all the action occurs, the tool makes the very private, very automatic. What’s more, it jettisons the already sterile and anonymous process of artificial insemination to new levels of Huxley-like detachment.

Called the “vagina machine” and “sperm donation taker” on various blogs across the Web, the product seems to be more interesting to teens and weird news purveyors then serious reproductive technology experts. Most of the humor-laced discussion is provoked by a 10 second you-tube video with close to 20,000 views since its release about a week ago. A man, or teen-ager (I couldn't really tell) watches the machine pump action and then sticks a finger in the hole....and that’s when I closed my browser.

The truth is while the you-tube video is certainly a new idea, the sperm collector isn’t. There are other’s on the market.

Still, the Sperm Collector made me curious about the state of infertility and artificial insemination in Asia. I mean, its hard to find any discussion of world news that doesn’t give some airplay to the “Chinese Takeover” the media is so fond of foreshadowing. Typically these cold-war like news stories have some compilation of statistics predicting “4 out of 5 people will be from Asia in the next 20 years” or “China will create 80 percent of the worlds goods.” Could China be poised for sperm donation domination?

Turns out China has a significant infertility problem and while it reports a somewhat strict policy on collection and donation, stories of illegal sperm trade abound. Varying sources estimate there are between 10 to 30 government-run facilities in the country all of which provide “collection” assistance. There is a bit of an internet fascination with this “assistance” methods which entail manual stimulation by a hospital aide. Pictures of men laying in hospital gowns having their samples taken are all over the internet. Yes, that’s right, there is a happy ending when you donate sperm in China. Now the fascination with a hands free machine makes more sense.

It’s difficult to compare the statistics with those in US because of varying methods and surveys, but all the American media sources like the China Post, say the infertility rate is on the rise. An article in the China Post detailed plans for government subsidy of IVF and artificial insemination procedures in Taiwan. According to Taiwan’s Department Of Health Statistics, more than 6,000 local married couples receive IVF treatment and artificial insemination each year, with some couples receiving multiple treatments in a single year. Similar efforts have been made in Singapore and Japan.

The sperm collector, it turns out, makes sense in Asia. Unfortunately it only makes the ethically and philosophically flawed process of anonymous sperm donation easier.

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