04 September 2000
ByAppeared in BioNews 073
Two new studies, published in the journal Human Reproduction, have raised concerns over the welfare of children conceived through donor insemination (DI) who are not told of their biological origins.
A team of researchers at Surrey University in the UK found that individuals who were not told about their DI conception until they were adults faced problems of personal identity, as well as feelings of abandonment and mistrust. A second study, carried out by scientists based in Stockholm, Sweden, found that out of 148 couples who had conceived using DI, nearly 90 per cent had not yet told their children. This finding was surprising, given that Swedish law was changed in 1985, requiring DI children to be told the donor's identity 'when sufficiently mature'.
The UK scientists interviewed 16 adults, recruited through support networks, who had not discovered they were DI babies until they were adults. Many reported feeling shocked when they learned of their origins, and all had attempted to search for their donor 'fathers'. Co-author Amanda Turner acknowledges that recruiting adults through support networks may have biased the study towards participants facing identity issues, but believes the work provides insights into the experiences of donor offspring and the implications for counselling.
In the UK, DI offspring can currently obtain a limited amount of non-identifying information about the donor when they reach the age of 16. The Department of Health said it may launch a consultation document on providing more information to DI children later this year.