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Donor Children

June 30th, 2009 · 8 Comments

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 Treatment Gender DOB
Family 1 DI Female 01/2000
Family 2 DI Female 06/1999
Family 2 DI Male 03/2001
Family 3 DI Female 01/1999
Family 4 ICSI Male 11/1999
Family 4 ICSI Male 07/2001
Family 5 FET Male & Female 10/2001
Family 6 DI Male 08/2000
Family 7 ICSI Male 06/2004
Family 8 DI Female 07/2003
Family 9 DI Female 02/2006
Family 9 DI Female 05/2003
Family 10 ICSI Male 09/2004
Family 11 FET Female 03/2001
Family 11 FET Female 03/2004

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:

http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/why-i-regret-donating-my-sperm/2007/08/26/1188066937323.html

Where Michael Linden a sperm donor who has been in the press a number of times concerning his experience with being a sperm donor, describes the anguish he has felt as a sperm donor.  He describes feeling expendable, having been discarded after having made a donation and knowing that there are children out there that are his, and how he will never know them.

Similarly there are articles such as this one:

http://lfpress.ca/newsstand/News/Local/2009/06/26/9941156-sun.html

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.

 In February 2008 the Oprah Winfrey show had a special on children born from sperm donation and had four young adults who had been born from donor sperm.  Each of them had not been able to locate their donor fathers and felt incomplete or that their reflection was that of a stranger (http://oprah.about.com/od/february2008/p/spermdonorkids.htm).

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.

Tags: Blogging · Donor Children · Social Commentary

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Chris // Aug 8, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Yeah, I am also a Donor, I was at Epworth 10 years ago, I phoned after 5 years went by and the lady in charge of the IVF program at the time said that “No one was interested in your sperm” I was quite taken aback … so I gave up and never woried about it.
    Then I answered my phone the other day to sign my review form and I asked the lady on the phone if anything had happenned a- and she made no hesitation to tell me that I had a daughter born in ’07, a pregnancy at the moment … and 12345 women dealing with it at the moment….
    Cheers!!

  • 2 FastLife // Sep 25, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Hi Chris, thanks for the post. What are your thoughts on the children born to donor fathers, would you prefer to remain anonymous, do you think of them as your children? I would be interested in other donors thoughts. Also do you mean there are 5 women using your guys at the moment or 12,345 (ie twelve thousand three hundred and forty five). I know I would like some photos of my kids, I am dying to know what they look like!

  • 3 Nathan Hall // Nov 18, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Hi,

    My parents sought assistance and recieved donated sperm through the Queensland Fertility Group. I was born in July 1978, and as such have abosolutely no rights whatsoever to find infomation regarding my biological origins etc. I personally feel alittle lost with my identity, whilst my identity has been built through my experiences in life, I feel it would be better for me if I had an understanding of where i’m from, and perhaps some basic info about my biological father such as his likes/dislikes, occupation, origin etc. For someone who hasn’t lived with the experience of being the product of a donor I wouldn’t expect them to understand the anguish, but I can assure you there is anguish and a part of yourself which is always missing. I believe this sense is hightened by the sense of injustice, that the information is, in most cases, available, however donor children are not entitled to it.

    As you state yourself, the donor children are the only parties who had no choice in the consequences, however we are the ones who bear the burdens. I might suggest such an outcome is grossly unconscionable. Moreover, I am strongly of the view that it is inequitable for a person to donate sperm and rely upon remaining anonomous on arguments such as its their right, or the privity of contract doctrine. I might add that I as a child of a donor was not party to any contract, therefore I should not be constrained by such. I believe I have an equitable right to the medical records pertaining to my birth, and upon completion of my Bachelor of Laws (LLB) that is exactly what I will be looking into.

  • 4 FastLife // Nov 18, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Hi Nathan, thanks for the post. I agree with you completely and think it is great that you will be looking into getting hold of the information that exists about you once you complete your degree. I would love to hear how you go and what you find out. I think it is great that Victoria has changed their laws to make the information more available. I hate the way people always seek to hide information, no wonder there is always so much frustration and conflict in various fields.

  • 5 My babies are growing up // Feb 6, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    […] I mentioned in a previous post (see Donor Children), when I was 21 I was a sperm donor in the Monash IVF program down in Melbourne.  As of January […]

  • 6 MICHAEL LINDEN // Apr 12, 2016 at 11:58 am

    Hi Hadyn,

    I’ve just been made aware of this post. Thanks for including the link to my Age opinion piece. How are things going for you now? Especially with regard to the new donor insemination legislation.

    Michael

  • 7 MICHAEL LINDEN // Apr 12, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Have just read your 2012 post re identifying info. How did that go?

  • 8 FastLife // Apr 13, 2016 at 11:22 am

    Hi Michael, two of my 11 families have made contact with me so far, two boys who now live in Queensland and a boy who lives in country Victoria. As I describe above it would be great to know more. The new legislation doesn’t really change things for me. While I donated in 1997, prior to the previous legislation, with the introduction of the 1998 legislation my information as well as those of the children were already available to both parties should they want them. The new legislation just makes it even more available, so hasn’t really changed anything for me personally.

    If anything what I would like to see introduced is if the request for information would be free. Last time I looked a request for identifying information costs $65. Particularly if it can be done electronically I think that could be drastically reduced. I have considered requesting information about my donor kids but have not tried that yet as there are so many it would be really expensive!

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