By admin on October 25, 2021
On November 3, 2005, an article came out in New Scientist Magazine about a donor-conceived 15-year-old (my son) who located his donor/biological father via a commercial DNA test. He was the first to do this. Two weeks later the Washington Post also covered the story. It's stunning that all these years later, and with thousands now having done the same, every single vial of sperm and all eggs are still sold as anonymous, either for 18 years or forever. 

Donor anonymity ended in 2005, but when will the sperm band egg vendors (yes, vendors, as they buy and then re-sell the gametes) acknowledge this and stop selling all gametes as anonymous? 
When will they acknowledge that these connections can be important to the donors and to the donor-conceived people, many of whom are younger than 18?  
When will they acknowledge that while there are many ways to make a family, that a very common way that all humans define family is those with whom you share a significant amount of genes?  
When will they acknowledge that knowing about one's ancestry and family medical history can be crucial to a person who is both under and over the age of 18? 
The sperm banks, egg clinics, and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine as a whole act like this is something "new" and that they haven't had time to review the situation. I think 16 years is ample time to educate themselves on the situation and adjust accordingly.

In no other segment of society is it accepted practice to keep a person from their close genetic relatives (biological parents, grandparents, and half-siblings) for 18 or more years. 

The practice is archaic and harmful. Stop putting profits before ethics when it comes to creating human life.

We invite all stakeholders and the reproductive medicine industry to read the published research.

By admin on October 25, 2021
My speaking experience last week at the ASRM's annual meeting was bizarre. The panel discussion was called "Open-Identity Sperm Donation: What Are the Children Saying?" Despite my early insistence that the panel actually invite donor-conceived people (DCP), no DCP were invited.* My fellow panelists seemed perturbed at my suggestion/reasoning and told me that DCP might be a part of a future talk, but not at this one that actually asks "what are the children saying".

Speaker #1, the owner of Seattle Sperm Bank talked about his sperm bank. He never mentioned identity release/open donation or anything about how it's working for donor-conceived people (DCP).

Speaker #2 an egg clinic director, presented information about an informal survey she took of her own egg clinic's parents. Again, nothing about open donation or DCP.

Speaker #3, a geneticist, talked about genetic testing. Again, nothing about open donation or DCP.

I then gave my presentation called The Ambiguity of Open Gamete Donation, citing why, in a significant number of instances, identity release/open donation is not working for DCP, and then questioned the ethics of "open" donation: deliberately keeping a donor child from their close genetic relatives, ancestry, and medical information for 18 years.

Given the title of the talk, it was bizarre that none of the "experts" wanted to talk about open donation and donor-conceived people. I am guessing that was because the other 3 panelists had limited understanding, contact, or experience with actual DCP. This has been my life's work for more than 2 decades, I have co-authored 26 papers in peer-reviewed journals, have talked with thousands of DCP and their families, have facilitated contact between more than 22,000 DCP and their close genetic relatives, and raised a donor child. So while I am not donor-conceived, I am very aware of their experiences and feelings. I had my white paper printed into booklets to hand out. While all vendors were handing out their goods in the exhibition hall, and books and merchandise were passed around a roundtable discussion I attended earlier that day, Sean Tipton of the ASRM publically reprimanded me for distributing my white paper called The Ambiguity of Open Gamete Donation, which has 33 pages of important qualitative (the voices of DCP, parents, and donors), and quantitative data (stats from research studies) to back-up my talk. 

The exhibition hall was filled with many sperm and egg vendors: the cryobanks and egg/embryo clinics/agencies, but there was no mention of the people they were all so focused on creating (except as babies) and the genetic connection between those people and the gamete sellers (the donors). 

And great resistance to talking about or acknowledging them at all.

Comments from Donor-Conceived People:

If the title of the session is "Open-Identity Sperm Donation: What Are the Children Saying?", then why isn't there an actual DCP person on the panel? Instead of, for example, a sperm bank director who has financial incentive to keep donors anonymous?  Why not DCP people who have experiences with the failings and successes of open donation? Shouldn't the children themselves answer the question about how they're doing?

I am perplexed. Why are 3 out of 4 of the panelists giving perspectives other than an offspring's perspective? Isn't this panel supposed to be looking into how the children feel and think about open or anonymous donation? The title should be:  Open-Identity Sperm Donation: What are the sperm banks, genetic counselors, and parents saying?

I am frankly slack-jawed in amazement, disappointment, and disbelief. So far still to go sadly.

The CONTINUED lack of input from donor-conceived people is enough to give me conniption fits! Thank you, Wendy, for your attendance. I'm sure you'll give them plenty to think about.

From Parents:

It sounds to me like the people in the industry are presenting justification for continuing as they are… withholding information from dcp for 18 years. Thank you Wendy for standing up for our children’s rights time and time again.

Sadly, it’s too often that representative panels are hardly that. Like the male majority panels who speak to topics of women’s health.

*A few days before the conference the ASRM did buckle and allow DCP to send in a single video for participants to watch on the ASRM website.

By admin on October 21, 2021

We can all educate ourselves about the importance of terminology when dealing with sensitive family groups and communities, including in the world where sperm and eggs are sold and bought.  But it's tricky.

For starters....the person who sold their sperm or eggs never actually “donated” anything. A donor-conceived child didn't have anything “donated” to them, so really, they do not have a donor.

Terminology can be a real hot button as it indicates the way that we define our relationships.  

It's an important factor in communication as it gives context to the content of our conversations. That's why we always recommend using accurate terminology for donor families. Usually, we call the person who sold their sperm or eggs the donor.  This person is actually the biological mother, biological father, or biological parent, as they contributed around 50% of the DNA to create the child. The word parent can be used as both a noun and a verb, and while donors are the biological parents (noun) of a donor-conceived child, they are not parents (verb), as they do not actually raise or actively parent the child.

Many parents view the gamete sellers as merely contributing a "piece of genetic material" or "a donated cell", but to the donor-conceived person, it's oftentimes so much more than that. It's one-half of their identity: their ancestry, their family medical history, and their very close genetic relatives.  Donor/biological parent is a good way to clarify which type of biological parent you're referencing, not the one who raised you, but the one who gave you half of their DNA via the sperm or egg donation process. They are the people that sold their gametes to a facility, who in turn sold them to the parents.

Here is how 1,683 surveyed sperm donor-conceived people refer to/describe the "donor".  42.58% of the DCP who had LGBTQ parents included the words father or dad while 66.83% of DCP with heterosexual parents used those words to describe the person from whom they received 50% of their DNA.

                                 Donor-conceived people with LGBTQ parents:                                                                                       Donor-conceived people with heterosexual parents:

Only 22% of 1700 surveyed sperm donor recipients (the mothers) used the words father or dad when describing the person who contributed 50% of their child's DNA.

Other terminology hot spots are the words we use for donor-conceived people: like offspring, or donor babies for very young children.
Others created with the same donor are called half-siblings, donor siblings, siblings, or even diblings (although that term is not favored by many adult donor-conceived people).
For the person that sold their gametes, they might have children that they are raising, but also children created from their gametes who might be their donor children or offspring.

Some donor-conceived people feel very strongly about not using some of these terms, while others are fine with it. It all comes down to how you personally define family.
I find that no matter which term you use, you're probably offending someone.  

I guess we're all still working it out.