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DI offspring may never be satisfied

25 April 2000

By Juliet Tizzard

Director, Progress Educational Trust

Appeared in BioNews 055
This week's BioNews reports on rumours that the UK government is considering a change in the law in order to allow children born of egg and sperm donation to find out the identity of the donors who made their conception possible. Under the headline, 'Four people who don't know who they really are', the Independent newspaper offered the testimony of four adults born of donor insemination who feel that they have a right to know the identity of their donor fathers.

I considered the issue of sperm donor anonymity in BioNews last July (you can search for this commentary in the BioNews archive). But perhaps a more pressing issue than whether or not we have a right to know our genetic parents is what the government should do to resolve the question of donor anonymity. A public consultation is likely later this year but, ultimately, the government has to offer a legislative answer to the debate over the rights and wrongs of anonymity.

One solution might be to follow the American model of a dual system, whereby donors could choose whether or not they wish to have identifying information made available to the child born as a result of their donation. As a consequence, prospective parents opting for treatment using donor eggs or sperm could also choose whether they wish to use an identified donor or they prefer to maintain anonymity.

There might be practical obstacles to this dual system and I'd be interested to hear your views on this. But even if a dual system were a workable solution, we shouldn't expect to see an end to complaints on the part of people conceived through egg or sperm donation. The law might be able to reflect the different preferences such people have when it comes to finding out the identity of their genetic parents, but children will always have to come to terms with the decisions that their parents make for them.

For instance, some children who are born of sperm donated by a man who is happy to have his identity revealed might wish that their parents had never entered into such an arrangement. Equally, children whose parents decided to opt for an anonymous donor might have their own reasons for being dissatisfied.

We shouldn't assume that even a change in the law that allows all parental desires to be fulfilled will mean that the children will be equally happy. With or without reproductive technology, parents will continue to make decisions about the lives of their children and children will continue to agree or disagree with those decisions.


Juliet Tizzard is the Founder of BioNews and was formerly Director of the charity that publishes it, the Progress Educational Trust (PET). She is coauthor of Key Issues in Bioethics (buy this book from Amazon UK) and Designer Babies: Where Should We Draw the Line? (buy this book from Amazon UK).

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