Donor names: ill-conceived idea or every child's right?
The Edinburgh Evening News, Scotland, January 20, 2004
BECOMING a parent is one of the most life-changing events anyone can go through. And, if having children naturally is amazing, conceiving through infertility treatment must be an even more miraculous experience.
Thanks to scientific progress, thousands of couples who would otherwise be childless have become parents since the first so-called test tube baby was born. But all that is under threat through Government plans expected to be announced tomorrow abolishing the right of anonymity for sperm and egg donors.
The children themselves and their supporters say that people born through donor-assisted conception have the right to know who their real parents are.
The debate raises some difficult questions. Is the right of an individual to know their parentage greater than a donor's right to anonymity? And does everybody really have a right to have a child, regardless of whether or not they are able to conceive?
Doctors at Edinburgh's fertility clinic say the long-feared move will consign countless infertile couples to a future without children by sparking a donor shortfall, as donors fear that their "unknown children" may track them down in later life.
Doctors at the ERI-based clinic have already blamed the long-feared change in the law for increasing donor shortages to such an extent that they have been unable to recruit donors for two years.
Last April, sperm donor shortages were so bad that doctors had to buy in sperm from London, at a cost of 75 to each desperate couple.
ERI consultant Dr Stewart Irvine claims that if the ban is lifted as expected it will be so damaging to donor numbers that it will become pointless, as eventually no children will be born through donor-assisted techniques to enforce their rights. He says: "If you accept my position that removing anonymity will dramatically reduce donor numbers, which will reduce our ability to treat couples, then these children will not exist in the first place, therefore they will not be able to enforce this right because they won't be there."
He also points out that children born naturally do not have the right to confirm who their biological parents are. "The right to know who your biological father is is not a right which most of the population has," he argues. "Estimates of uncertain parentage vary widely from one or two per cent to as much as 15 per cent of the general population.
"These children do not have the right to find out who their genetic father is. The name on their birth certificate is their social father. If a child conceived through donor insemination is to have the right to know who their genetic parents are, we should have a discussion about these children too."
And Irvine claims that removing anonymity for donors in other countries, such as Sweden, has increased secrecy, rather than reducing it, with the number of parents telling their children that they had been conceived through donor techniques dropping "dramatically" after the anonymity protection for donors was lifted - again suggesting the change in law will not improve children's rights in practice.
Many infertile couples would agree with Irvine and are understandably scared that the expected move will make it impossible for them to have a family. However, one mother, who has conceived two children through sperm donation, believes that such fears are groundless and that lifting the ban is in the best interests of both children and couples. Olivia Montuschi, a 50-something London campaigner on the issue, who has a 17-year-old and a 20-year-old through donor insemination due to her husband's infertility, says: "Fertility clinics are very keen on producing babies, but they don't think much about their future. This is not about supply and demand of sperm; this is to do with making families. There will be a drop in donor numbers to start with. That has happened in all countries where they have changed. But with effort numbers will come up again."
And on the crucial question of whether a donor's right to anonymity is greater than a child' s right to know who their parents are, she says children's rights are "paramount".
"My children have no rights at the moment," she says. "If you are using donated gametes [sperm or eggs], I think that means not being secret about it. It is about being willing to share that information with the child and preferably that child being able to have information about or contact with the donor when they are older."
Montuschi and her husband told their children about their origins when they were about four and had asked where babies come from.
She adds: "My children think lifting the ban on anonymity would be fantastic. My daughter said: I know it' s not going to help me [because it will only apply to future donors], but this is what they' ve got to do for the future' ."
At present, the 18,000-plus people born as a result of treatment with donated sperm, eggs or embryos since the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority set up a register of such births in 1991 have very limited information about their biological parents. Under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, a person under 18 may ask the HFEA whether they are, or may be, related to a named person they intend to marry.
A person aged 18 and over may ask the HFEA whether he or she was born as a result of treatment using donated sperm, eggs or embryos. Clinics may also sometimes give parents very limited, non-identifying information about a donor.
The aim of the legislation was to protect donors_- many of whom in Britain are students making some extra cash - who years later are frightened that an "unknown child" will turn up on their doorstep, demanding love, money, or both. But lifting the ban on their anonymity is not expected to give their "unknown children" any right to demand financial support.
And, even if the ban on anonymity of donors is lifted it will be, to a certain extent at least, meaningless because parents do not have to tell their children that they were conceived through donor fertility treatment. So if they do not know that their biological father or mother is not the father or mother who brought them up, these children will not go looking for them - perhaps reassuring for donors. But it is something that Montuschi wants to see changed, although crucially not through further legislation.
She says: "It is difficult to find the words at first. Parents should be supported, encouraged and educated, but not coerced. There is room for an educational campaign to remove the stigma."
For the time being, the estimated 12,000 people like the Montuschis' two children who were conceived with donor sperm or eggs before 1990 will still be unable to find out about their biological families, because the move to lift anonymity is only aimed at post-1990 births.
However, a pilot voluntary register - ukdonorlink - is being launched next month to give those people conceived before the 1990 Act came into force, and their donors, half brothers and sisters, the chance to make contact with each other if they wish.
Co-ordinators of the register, After Adoption Yorkshire, say they have had "dozens" of people - donors and children born through donor-assisted techniques - showing an interest in the register, which will involve DNA testing to establish donor links.
Register project manager Lyndsey Marshall says: "There is a great deal of interest on both sides", suggesting not all donors are against revealing their identities.
Meanwhile, leading sociologist and author of Paranoid Parenting, Dr Frank Furedi, believes the move is a symptom of misplaced emphasis on the importance of children knowing their "real" parents. "I think we are continually inciting children to be obsessed with their biological origin, rather than to think that who they are is Read More ..out what they have achieved and the community they are in," he says.
He does not think everyone has the right to have a child, but he says that infertility is "a state of existence which we should not put up with if we can address it. We should do more to make it possible for people to be mothers and fathers rather than stigmatising them".
The announcement is expected to be made by a government minister at the HFEA' s annual conference tomorrow. A Department of Health spokesman confirmed that an announcement following consultation on plans to lift anonymity was due "shortly", although he described the expectation that the announcement would be for life anonymity, and would be made tomorrow, as "speculation".
But whether or not an individual' s right to know the identity of their biological parents outweighs a donor' s right to anonymity, the move looks set to cause major heartache for thousands of infertile couples - although adoption would still be an option.
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 ..