Sperm and the quest for identity
BBC News Online (British Broadcasting Corporation), by Clare Murphy, January 20, 2004
What are the implications of banning anonymous sperm donations, as speculation mounts that the UK may give children conceived through donor insemination the right to trace their biological parents?
The Australian town of Albury may not be teeming with tourist attractions, but the wildlife sanctuary claims to be one of the few places where visitors can tickle the kangaroos, while a day trip to Melbourne is not out of the question.
But the 12 foreigners who take up an offer from an Albury fertility clinic for an all expenses paid round-trip in exchange for sperm donations must not wander too far afield nor overly exert themselves in any capacity - they will be expected to perform every two days for two weeks.
The clinic, which advertised for donors in Canada, said it was forced to do so after failing to find enough Australians willing to donate.
Sperm donations have apparently dried up in the state of New South Wales as a result of an imminent change of law which will entitle all donor offspring to discover the identity of their donor parent when they are older.
The 12 who accept the AU$7,000 (3,000) package will not be exempt from this legislation. They will be required to hand over all the identifying details needed along with their samples in March, and be prepared in the future to field inquisitive phone calls, emails and letters from the offspring they have produced.
The UK is widely expected to announce this week that future donor offspring will be given the right to identifying information about their biological parent, bringing the country into line with other European Union states such as Sweden and Austria.
The prospect prompts fears that sperm donors - often students interested in a little extra cash - will vanish, but the British authority which regulates assisted reproduction believes that the right of a donor conceived child to know its genetic heritage outweighs the need to maintain the number of donors.
The existing research does indeed suggest that many of those conceived through donor insemination experience identity problems, which are exacerbated by their inability to find out anything about their genetic parent.
A foray into the international community of donor offspring produced a number of tragic tales.
Karen is a 37-year-old mother of two who lives in New York.
It was in the heat of a row with her mother - shortly after the man she then believed to be her real father had died - that she found out she was donor conceived. Karen says she had long sensed that "something was not right" and that her parents were concealing something from her.
After she was told she sought in vain for her genetic parent, who had been a doctor in the mid-1960s. Like many of those who join donor conception support groups, her inability to find her father has been a source of deep disquiet in her life.
"People have told me that it doesn't matter. Like I should pretend that my dad was my genetic father. Like all my dad's blood relations are my blood relations. I don't think that they understand that they are my family but not in the same way as they are their own family. I am the odd man out," she says.
Karen does not just want anonymity lifted. She says she would like to see donor insemination banned outright.
"Parenting is not a right, it is a privilege. If a couple can't conceive, they shouldn't. I love my life but if my parents could have asked me whether or not they should conceive using a donor, I would tell them the same thing. After all, what's wrong with non-existence?"
But such identity issues are not inevitable: Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok, for example, a donor conceived professor at the University of Wales, has yet to experience the kind of malaise that has plagued Karen's life.
"I've always known who I am, and for that reason I've never really had any interest in trying to find my genetic father," he says. "It's not that I don't understand the quest - it's just that for my part, I feel complete."
"I think anonymity is crucial if we are going to maintain the number of donors. Donor insemination is such a simple process, but it's a gift - and one we should cherish."
However much donor offspring differ on anonymity and the need to find the donor, there is widespread agreement that honesty about the circumstances of their conception is crucial.
"Parents should be honest with their children from the start," says Helen, who discovered she was donor conceived when she was 20. "It's the lying that hurts, not the truth."
Ironically Sweden's experience with transparency has, at least in some cases, had the opposite of the desired effect.
Legislation banning anonymous donations was introduced in 1985: interviews with parents who have used donor insemination since suggest that many have not told their children they were donor conceived for fear that they will find their genetic parent.
"But that doesn't mean it was the wrong thing to do," says Dr Claes Gottlieb, who carried out the research. "It will take time before full transparency is achieved, but I honestly believe that the best way to avoid identity issues is for children to be fully informed."
Dr Gottlieb, who heads a fertility clinic in Stockholm, also stresses that banning anonymity has not had a long term impact on the number of donors, which are back at their pre-1985 levels.
Nonetheless, sperm is in short supply in Sweden, pushing infertile couples abroad - often to neighbouring Denmark, a country whose males donate More overm than any other and one which is home to the world's largest sperm bank - Cryos International.
"Anonymity is key," says Ole Schou, Cryos founder and chief executive. "If you removed that, we wouldn't have the donors we have."
Nature or nurture?
There is little doubt that - at least in the short term - donations will go down in the UK if anonymity is banned, although it is hoped that in the long-term they will pick up.
"I'm going to have to think hard about it," says Steve, who is reviewing a decision to donate.
"My gut feeling is that offspring should have the right to know. If I decided not to donate that would be my choice - and I think the kids should have a choice too as to whether they want to find the genetic parent or not."
But beyond the issue of rights - the right of the child to know, the right of the couple to conceive, the right of the donor to remain anonymous - is a broader issue.
At the heart of the anonymity debate is the question of what makes us what we are - whether we are made or born.
"I wonder if it's right that we put so much store in our genetic origins," says Steve. "I tend to think we are what we are through nurture, rather than nature. Would I really be a father to the resulting children if I did donate? Not in the way it matters."
UK National Survey
Scotland's National Newspaper
5,000 women polled
Half the women said that if they became pregnant by another man but wanted to stay with their partner, they would lie about the baby's real father.
Forty-two per cent would lie about contraception in order to get pregnant, no matter the wishes of their partner.
The article contains info about children's identity fraud at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
December 14, 2002.
Includes interview with employees of Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario, Canada who admit they deny children's identity information to husbands/male partners of mothers who want to hide the real identity of their child because they had an affair. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of The Child specifically supports a child's human right to have a relationship with both his/her biological parents. In addition, this article is proof that The Hospital for Sick Children ("Sick Kids") supports paternity fraud.
Further "Sick Kids" supports a mother's rights only, which they view, supersedes 3 other people's rights, namely, the rights of the biological father, the rights of the mother's male partner/husband and the child's identity rights.
Up to one in 25 dads could unknowingly be raising another man's child, UK health researchers estimate.
Increasing use of genetic testing for medical and legal reasons means Read More ..uples are discovering the biological proof of who fathered the child.
The Liverpool John Moores University team reached its estimate based on research findings published between 1950 and 2004.
The study appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Professor Mark Bellis and his team said that the implications of so-called paternal discrepancy were huge and largely ignored, even though the incidence was increasing.
In the US, the number of paternity tests increased from 142,000 in 1991 to 310,490 in 2001.
The Daily Mail, UK
18th February 2009
An adulterous Spanish woman who conceived three children with her lover has been ordered to pay £177,000 in 'moral damages' to her husband.
The cuckolded man had believed that the three children were his until a DNA test eventually proved they were fathered by another man.
The husband, who along with the other man cannot be named for legal reasons to protect the children's identities, suspected his second wife may have been unfaithful in 2001.
Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
January 15, 2009
BEAUTIFUL women who have affairs can now blame it on their sex hormones.
Women with higher levels of oestradiol, a form of oestrogen, not only look and feel Read More ..tractive, they are also more likely to cheat on their partners, a new study has found.
One-night-stands are not what interest these flirtatious females, who tend to have bigger breasts, relatively small waists and symmetrical faces as a result of their high levels of oestradiol.
Rather, they adopt a strategy of serial monogamy, say the researchers, led by Kristina Durante of the University of Texas. Read More ..
Paternity fraud: Is it or should it be a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada?
You be the judge. Read More ..
Independent Women's Forum
Feminist organizations including the National Organization of Women (NOW) has objected to legislation that requires the courts to vacate paternity judgments against men who arent, in fact, the father.
Think about that. NOW wants some man, any man, to make child support payments. The woman who doesnt even know who the father is, should not be held responsible for her actions, is a sweet, loving, blameless mother who seeks only to care for her child and if naming some schmuck as father who never saw her before in his life helps her provide for the innocent babe, well then, that's fine.
Innocence is no excuse. Pay up. Read More ..
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
TV PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT
Broadcast: November 22, 2004
Last year, more than 3,000 DNA paternity tests were commissioned by Australian men, and in almost a quarter of those cases, the test revealed that not only had their partners been unfaithful, but the children they thought were theirs had been sired by someone else. Read More ..
The Sunday Times
March 27, 2005
IT sounded too good to be true and it was.
The fairytale that saw Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott reunited with the son he thought he had given up for adoption 27 years ago, ABC sound-recordist Daniel O'Connor, ended this week when DNA tests confirmed another man had fathered Mr O'Connor.
The revelations were devastating for all involved, not least Mr O'Connor.
Still reeling from the emotional reunion with his mother, Kathy Donnelly, and Mr Abbott a few months ago, a simple test of truth has thrown the trio into disarray a situation familiar to thousands of other Australians.
Paternity testing in Australia is a burgeoning industry.
The simplicity of the test cells are collected from a mouth swab grossly underestimates the seriousness of the situation.
18 March, 2005
Proposed new laws will make it easier for fathers to recover child maintenance payments if DNA testing reveals that they are not the child's father.
The Family Law Amendment Bill 2005 allows people who wrongly believed they were the parent of a child to recover any child maintenance paid or property transferred under an order of a court under the Family Law Act 1975 .
"The bill is intended to make it easier for people who find themselves in this position to take recovery action without the need to initiate separate proceedings for an order from a court of civil jurisdiction, such as a State, Local or Magistrates court," Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said. Read More ..
USA TODAY, by Martin Kasindorf, December 12, 2002
An acid sense of betrayal has been gnawing at Damon Adams since a DNA test showed that he is not the father of a 10-year-old girl born during his former marriage.
"Something changes in your heart," says Adams, 51, a dentist in Traverse City, Mich. "When she walks through the door, you're seeing the product of an affair."
But Michigan courts have spurned the DNA results Adams offered in his motions to stop paying $23,000 a year in child support. Now, Adams is lobbying the state Legislature for relief and joining other men in a national movement against what they call "paternity fraud." Read More ..
Up to three million Britons may be wrong about who their real father is , experts claim. But using DNA paternity tests to discover the truth can cause its own problems.
BBC, U.K., May 16, 2003
Dad's got blue eyes, Baby brown...
When Tessa found out she was pregnant after fertility treatment, she felt a mix of delight and doubt.
This wasn't simply pre-baby nerves - she suspected that her husband might not be the father. For Tessa had started sleeping with a colleague when the stress of the ongoing treatment became too much.
Keen to build a family with her husband, she let him believe the baby was his. But her lover threatened to reveal all if she ended the affair, and Tessa soon fell pregnant again. This time, her lover started to make nuisance calls to her home.
Tessa had no choice but to tell her husband. "I said to him, 'I've had an affair and you may not be the father of my children.' So with that, he went up the stairs, got dressed and left. And that was it," Tessa says in Women Who Live a Lie, a programme for the BBC's Five Live Report.
THERE IS A story I used to find hilarious in my high school years about a not too bright man. He was light skinned, his wife was of similar hue, but their first child was born with very dark complexion (darker dan Bello, blacker dan Blakka).
When the man wondered aloud about the baby's complexion his wife assured him that the child was born dark because the child was conceived in darkness (they had sex with the lights off). The man accepted the explanation. Because he loved his wife dearly, he also ignored the fact that the child had other obvious signs of resemblance to the young dark skinned man who did their gardening. To fix the problem, the husband put flood lights, strobe lights, spotlights and forty other lights in the bed room so there would be no more darkness to create dark babies.