Donor Offspring: Voices of the Disenfranchised

Over the years I have given a lot of thought to how the varied voices of donor-conceived people are heard and considered. While I do think that all donor-conceived people’s experiences and points of view need to be included in the donor conception conversation, I also think that they need to be weighed accordingly.

Here are a few analogies: comparing things that might, but don’t certainly, cause harm. If there is a potential for harm, there are precautions/warnings. To be clear: I am not directly comparing donor conception with any of these things.

  • 1. Seat belts. Some people drive around without using seatbelts, and they’ve never been harmed in an accident. We have seatbelt laws because many people who have not used a seat belt have been harmed. 
  • 2. Smoking. Many people who have smoked have had no health issues. But because smoking does cause harm to some, we give proper warnings on cigarette packages. Stories of smokers without health issues don’t factor into proper cigarette warning education.
  • 3. Alcohol. Many pregnant women have consumed alcohol, and their babies were born without any health issues. Stories of those women don’t factor into the proper warnings about consuming alcohol during pregnancy.
  • 4. Open Adoption. Decades ago people acknowledged the importance of adopted people knowing about their families of origin. Like donor-conceived people, not all adopted people were curious, but most were. Today, closed adoptions are all but extinct; it’s estimated that only 5 percent of modern adoptions are closed. Because of that, the adoption system continues to evolve.

Highlighting and equally weighing stories about people who smoke with no health consequences, or who don’t use seat belts and have never been injured in an accident, or who drank alcohol during pregnancy and had healthy babies, or who have adopted children who were not negatively affected by having no information on their families of origin is not just cause for not warning people about the inherent and potential harm in these situations.

So yes, some donor-conceived people are not curious, and some don’t care about meeting their genetic relatives or knowing about their health history or ancestry, but that doesn’t negate the importance of making rules that affect everyone, most importantly the significant number of people who are negatively affected by being kept from this familial information. As with auto safety, alcohol awareness, smoking, and adoption; new data, research, and information need to be acknowledged in order to be able to move forward so that policies can be set to protect all people.

“My Mom asked me years ago if I wanted to search for my donor. I did not and still do not wish to know who he is. I have never felt angry or betrayed and have never felt a sense of loss! As of now (I am 21) I have no interest in the donor. He was probably donating for the $ and wasn’t looking to create a child with a true connection to him, except biological. The donor has never used the DSR, probably because he has no wish to, or, has never thought about his “donation”. I don’t feel any sense of anger or loss. I’m happy they wanted me enough to use the sperm.”

Parents and the reproductive medicine industry can acknowledge the new data, anecdotal information, and research so that the ideas regarding donor anonymity can evolve accordingly. There is no data or psychological research that shows anonymity for 18 or more years is in the best interests of anyone. The data, anecdotal reports, and research clearly show that anonymity is harmful to a significant number of donor-conceived people. Anonymity might serve the fears, hesitations, and worries of uneducated and un-counseled parents and donors, and be in the best interests of the sperm banks and clinics, but that doesn’t justify the ethics of the practice.

“…the repeated assumption that simply telling your kids from the start is a magical elixir (not saying lying isn’t a big problem, but there are plenty of mixed feelings from people who weren’t lied to), the belief that because someone was “so wanted and loved” is a logical counter to losing half their bio relatives, that someone is “well-adjusted” because they don’t show interest in finding their donor, or that a parent is doing a great job for the same reason…it gets a little tiresome and turns people off from wanting to express their feelings.”

“I have always known that I was donor conceived. Since I can remember, I have been curious and excited to look for paternal family members. Never have I felt loss or anger. In fact, I can only imagine being angry if my mom didn’t tell me. I’m 33 and am just now starting to connect with half-siblings and it makes my heart explode. I also knew from the beginning that my Mom had an anonymous donor. “

“I know I don’t like the term donor. It’s our biological father. Many of us hear that we should just be happy to be alive. We are, but I think it’s more about validating our feelings. Most of us want to know about our background. What our other biological parent is/was like. Stories of our families. Also, the fact of missing out on childhood memories being made with siblings. Oh, and I think the thought of being bought and paid for. Not every day, but some days you just feel like a transaction.”

“I am unhappy with being DC. I actually do not even wish to continue to refer to myself as DC- my mother had a sperm donor, I have a biological father who I will never meet or know. I am constantly frustrated by the hypocrisy of people who believe biology is so important they buy sperm or eggs in order to have a biological connection to their offspring. These same people then deny the importance of biology by writing off the “unknown” portion of their child’s parentage.”

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