In 1997 I was a sperm donor in the Monash IVF program at the Epworth Medical Centre in Melbourne. I was 21 at the time and in the honours year of my Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Melbourne. The laws must have changed since I was a donor as you have to be at least 25 years old to be accepted into the donor program these days. Pre 1995 donors could be completely annonymous and it was up to them as to whether there identifying information would be held on a database. This meant that children born from donor sperm, in many cases would be unable to find any information about their biological fathers if they so chose. In 1995 the law was changed such that all parties could be identified if ever needed. So now identifying information of the donor must be held on a central data base and any children born from donor sperm have the right to request identifying information of their donors, though the donors maintain the right to refuse to allow disclosure of that information. Interestingly if you read the actual legislation (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/ita1995264/index.html#p9) the donors also have the right to request identifying information about any children born from their sperm, but like the rights of the donor, the child’s parents (if the child is under 18 or the child themselves if they are over 18) have the right to remain anonymous if they wish. I don’t remember this last bit ever being pointed out to me as a donor and judging by the response of donors in news articles it is not widely known by others either.
Despite this I think this new legislation is a better system as it still keeps everything anonymous if people would like it to be that way but at least the information is available should the parties involved want it. As a scientist I can’t bare the thought of information being destroyed or lost.
I personally haven’t asked for any identifying information but you can ask the clinic where you were a donor for non-identifying information including things like the number of births resulting from your sperm the gender and the month and year of birth. I actually keep my contact details up to date with the clinic and the last time I contacted them was in January 2008 and as of then I had 16 children to 11 different families. The table you get from the clinic has a list of the families, the gender and the date of birth but also a column with the type of IVF treatment that was used to result in the birth. The table of my births is below.
|Family 5||FET||Male & Female||10/2001|
The symbols used for treatment type are:
DI = donor insemination
FET = Frozen Embryo Transfer
ICSI = Intracytoplasmic sperm injection
So all together I have 9 girls and 7 boys with the eldest being two girls who are 10 then a boy and a girl who are 9, then two boys and a girl who are 8, two boys and a girl who are 7 (one of the boys and the girl are twins), a girl who is 6, two girls and a boy who are 5, a boy who is 4 and a girl who is 3.
If you look at articles about sperm donation, both from the point of view of sperm donors and also the children produced from donor sperm there appears to be a degree of dissatisfaction with the system. There are articles such as:
Where Michael Linden
Similarly there are articles such as this one:
Where the children who have been produced from donor sperm have searched unsuccessfully for their donor parent and describe feeling incomplete, not knowing where half of themselves have come from.
In a television interview with Andrew Denton (http://www.abc.net.au/tv/enoughrope/transcripts/s942310.htm) one such child from donor sperm was one of three children in the same family, each born to separate donors. Her brother and sister were able to find out identifying information about their donors, but the records from her donor were lost and so she was not able to know more about her donor father. This interview seems to describe a typical pattern in the children of donors in that they love their parents who raised them and don’t necessarily seek a relationship with their donor fathers, they often don’t even think of them as their fathers, but simply seek knowledge of the second person who’s genes they carry.
It seems a very common response in children of donor sperm that a very strong sense of identity comes from knowing their heritage and they are unsettled by having an aspect of themselves that they don’t know anything about. On the other hand I do wonder how complete the story is. Is this a universal response both from the donors and the children of donors or is it that the drama associated with some donors or children in anguish over not knowing their offspring or biological parents mean that those are the only stories that we see or hear anything about. Perhaps the majority are perfectly happy with their lot in life and how they were created.
I know that I personally do not feel hard done by with the possibility that I will never know 16 of my children as I knew that this was the situation when I signed up to be a donor. I think it is the children who should have the right to know who their biological fathers are mainly because they were the only ones in all of this who had no choice in whether or not they were conceived in this way. The rest of us, both the parents and the sperm donors knew what we were getting our selves into and were free to accept that arrangement.
I think that the current legislation is actually very fair in that all parties have the right to request identifying information and that identifying information is stored in a central registry. But then the wishes of the other party are also taken into consideration in that each party has the right to remain anonymous if they wish (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/ita1995264/index.html#p9).
Even though it is most likely that I will not meet these 16 children I actually wouldn’t mind meeting them and often think of them. While I am comfortable with the possibility that I will never know them, I think it would be great if there was some way of anonymously keeping up to date with how they are going. I absolutely support the right of the parents to choose to keep the method of conception they used a secret if that is what they wish, but I also think it would be nice to know that the kids are happy and doing well. I would love to know things like how they did on sports day or what part they played in the school play or whether they were excited about starting high school etc. Perhaps one day I will find out but it would be nice to know at the time and to go on that journey with them. I also think that it must be weird for many of these children. Some of them may be only children, most will have one maybe two brothers or sisters and they will go through their lives with this concept of their family but somewhere out there they actually have 15 other half brothers and sisters right now and they don’t even know it. It is funny to look at it from that point of view. It makes you wonder just how much of our lives that we take as true actually is and how much of it is actually just the story that has been presented to us.