Really? (Term used with all due respect, just following your title).
Accidental incest “not” a problem? I invite you to come listen to the stories of random meetings amongst families that happen all the time on the DSR. These meetings take place at summer camp, at school functions, at parks, on cruises, at parties- just about anywhere.
In one group, of 75 children, there were actually two separate random meetings. Here’s one of the stories:
“we went on a cruise last week with our son. On the 2nd day of the cruise (he was stir crazy by this point) we visited the play room on the ship to keep him occupied. While we were in there playing we met a single mom with her son. We were on our way to lunch and invited them to join us. After spending about 30 minutes together, she asked which cryobank we used -we told her Fairfax -she did as well. As the conversation went on she asked us what drew us to our donor. A few things we said… his audio, education, height, religion but most of all, his childhood photo -you were called ‘the painter’ from the first time we laid eyes on you! Well, her face went pale and she said, “that’s funny, mine was painting too…” As we all sat there astonished at what was happening, we asked her the donor’s number and of course she replied, 214x!We were floored that fate would bring us together and 2 half brothers were sitting beside each other.”
And a few more, so that you get the gist:
1. “I had a similar experience with UNC Andrology. I have a 12 year old donor-conceived son. I know of one donor sibling (another 12 year old boy) whom we discovered at a potluck when the boys were 2-3 years old. “
2. “A single mom that I know from our temple has a daughter in the preschool there. Last year, for some reason, after school started, they switched her daughter from one preschool class to another. In the second class, the teachers observed that my friend’s daughter promptly bonded with one of the other little girls in class. They were frequently observed playing together, holding hands for extended periods, etc. At the parent-teacher conferences, the teachers suggested to the parents of both little girls that they arrange a playdate for the girls, as they obviously enjoyed each other’s company. During the course of the playdate, as one of moms is a single mom and the other moms are a lesbian couple, the manner in which the women became pregnant was an obvious topic of conversation. As the two mothers compared notes, they discovered that, in fact, the two little girls who had become such close friends so promptly were in fact half-sisters, having used the same sperm donor from the same sperm bank.”
3. “I also want to share how I found one more sibling. I was on a bowling league
this past fall and winter. I knew another woman had her daughter using a donor but we had never had much discussion about the issue. When our teams were bowling each other, we talked more. A few things she said caught my interest and after a bit I asked if she knew her donor number. She told me and it turns out her daughter and my son are siblings. What a small world.”
4. “I got the confirmation from the clinic today. I’m not surprised. The personalities are way too much alike for them not to be from the same donor. The 14 year old girl lives WALKING distance to my parent’s home. That was scary for me. I don’t mean the girl or the distance, but what would happen if a parent didn’t tell their children about this and it was a boy/girl relationship. Truth is always better. I’d hate for two children to end up married only to discover that they are half brothers/sisters.”
And here’s one case where a donor donated at more than one clinic (we have donors donating at up to 17 clinics on the DSR). Between 22-27% of surveyed sperm donors (this is published research) say that they donated to more than one clinic. This is extremely problematic when medical issues arise, as families and sperm banks have a hard time finding families because of a lack of accurate record keeping (sperm banks do not know how many, children are born from any one donor) as well as because the donor has a different donor number at each clinic, as there is no central registry where this is tracked or recorded:
“When our son was one, a new couple joined the mothers group with a six
month old baby boy [L] . A few weeks later, someone else in the group
remarked to my partner how alike S and L looked – when I heard about
that remark, I simply dismissed it from my mind as I didn’t agree. The
week after that, the mother of L remarked to me how beautiful she
thought our son was. I was a bit surprised that someone would go out
of their way to say that about someone else’s baby. [In retrospect, I
don’t think she had any conscious idea about the connection but I
think their similarity must have triggered something unconsciously.]
A couple of months later, our group held a party attended by about
twenty couples. At some point, a small-group conversation started
about donors and the mother of L was talking about how they made their
choice of donor, based on his particular interest in music. I was
listening in and I immediately knew, as the information was so
specific, that it was the same donor. I didn’t say anything at the
time but later I telephoned L’s mothers and told them I was pretty
sure it was the same donor. We had our donor’s code. They had gone to
a different clinic and didn’t have the code – but they were able to
contact their clinic to get it – and it was the same.”
Next item: Neither myself, or the DSR uses the term “sibling” when speaking about children who are related by the same biological father. The term “half sibling” has always been used, in every interview, published piece of research, media piece and is all over the DSR’s website. Maybe you were confused and partially remembering this piece that the AFA published about my son meeting his half sister Anna?
It was interesting that both she and Ryan referred to each other as
“brother” and “sister”. We parents had been using “half brother” and
“half sister”. When we were talking about what their kids would be
to each other, I suggested “half cousins”. Anna just looked at me
and said, “No. Just cousins”.
You go on to talk about the number of offspring not mattering because most sperm donors don’t care about the outcome of their donations. First of all, many donors do indeed wish to connect with their offspring, and many have, and also wait to, on the DSR. Really? You don’t see the negative ramifications of 150 offspring for one donor? You ask, “where is the harm”? Obviously, you have never talked with the parents in these large groups. And the children are all to young to ask at this point, but we will be hearing from them within the next 5 years or so. That will be surely be interesting and enlightening for us all!
In this age of DNA testing and internet search engines, many donors are being traced. There is no such thing as 100% anonymity, and no donors should currently be promised anonymity. (Donors should also be told that they could produce more than 30, 70 or 150 children.) If you had donated, how would you feel if you were then contacted by 75 or 150 offspring? And what about the medical and psychological ramifications to the families and the children in these groups? Have you read about the groups of half siblings with medical conditions? What about the random meetings? What about those children to desire to connect with their biological father, but never will because the size of the group is too daunting for the donor to ever come forward?
And then you go on to say, “I hope that we can work together to do a comprehensive, scientific study with a large population of teens and young adults who were born through sperm and egg donation.” I invite you to read our summer 2011 published study on 751 donor offspring (note: more than half of these offspring were not DSR members). Or, please read our 2009 and 2010 published research on donor offspring that we did in collaboration with Cambridge University.
All research can be found in the DSR “Library” tab on the www.donorsiblingregistry.com website.
You say this: “But, what isn’t taken into account is the huge overhead required by sperm banks—much of it due to current FDA regulations that we are required to follow. These expenses include extensive screening of the donors for infectious disease, materials and equipment needed to process, freeze, and ship the sperm, professional staff, rent, malpractice insurance, licenses, etc., etc. “
Stuart, the FDA mandates little more than STD testing. Where are the mandates (not recommendations) for the necessary genetic testing? Why are children still being born with diseases like CF and Tay Sachs? Some banks and clinics, test some donors, for some diseases. Why wouldn’t donors receive the same testing that so many of us have had via 23andme, or some other commercial testing service? It’s less than $200. 93% of surveyed sperm donors said they would have accepted genetic screening, if it had been offered. It should also be noted that 96% of our 155 surveyed egg donors were never contacted for medical updates by their clinics, while 31% of them said that they, or close family members, did have medical issues that would be important for families to know about.
And finally, you say this: “As someone who works with clients from all over Europe and the world, I can tell you that they certainly look to the U.S. as the leader in all things related to third party reproduction and do not hold their own countries attitudes and regulations in high regard at all. “ Um Stuart, I know you talk to “clients”, but have you ever talked with the reproductive medicine authorities in the UK or Australia? How about New Zealand or Sweden? They think our system is archaic. It is quite apparent to them that the US lags far behind in updating it’s policies so that we no longer only serve the needs of the industry, the parents and the donors, but also consider what might be in the best interests of the people being created in this way.
One Australian clinician says, “Importing donor sperm is the easy option and something we thought long and hard about at Fertility Solutions” says Donati. “Once our team of nurses, scientists, doctors, and counselors had sat down and talked more about this option, it became clear that it did not fit with the clinic’s ethics on children born from donor sperm having a right to know of their biological origins when they reach the age of 18 – if not before.”