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US teenagers trace their sperm donor father

19 February 2007
Appeared in BioNews 395

Six US teenagers conceived from the same sperm donor have been put in contact with their biological father through the US Donor Sibling Registry website. Their father, Mr Jeffrey Harrison - or 'Donor 150' - 'nearly choked on his coffee' as he read an article in the New York Times, which alerted him to the news that two children, conceived using his sperm and now in their teens, were looking for him. Mr Harrison was a popular sperm banker with California's Cyrobank in the mid 1980s billed as a blue-eyed, six foot philosophy graduate with a love for music, sport, animals and children. He claims to have made up to £200 a month donating his sperm.

At first Mr Harrison was hesitant in contacting the website that unites children with their sperm donors for fear of disappointing them with his humble life living with his four dogs in a motor home near Los Angeles. But he eventually decided to contact the website only to discover that the original two teenagers had by then risen to six.

Nevertheless, he revealed his identity. 'It's a short life and these children need to have some kind of resolution', Mr Harrison told the New York Times, 'I thought I could send a little Valentine, kind of, to everyone, just saying hello'. Once his status had been confirmed the teenagers and their biological father were united and at once began to speak with each other through email and by video link. By the weekend, Mr Harrison had personally met three of his daughters.

They found that they all shared a similar love for animals - as well as possessing a prominent forehead - the resemblance between them, says Wendy Kramer, who runs the website, being remarkable. The website unites between 60 to 80 donors and siblings in a typical month. In one case, a donor who provided the sperm used to conceive 22 children, has recently come forward to reveal his identity. There is little regulation of sperm donation in the US. 'Nobody's asked the question here that has been asked in country after country, in Europe and elsewhere: in going forward, what is in the best interests of the child?' said Ms Kramer calling for more self-regulation. 'This is all about redefining the family', she added.

In the UK donor anonymity has been removed, affecting all donations made after April 2005 - donations prior to this date remain anonymous. Once the child conceived reaches the age of 18 then they are entitled to access the identity of their donor, meaning that the first generation to do so won't be until 2023. Sperm donors are not paid in the UK but claims for 'reasonable expenses' are permitted. A donor may also find out whether his sperm was used. This is not the case in the US, where clinics are not obliged to record whether sperm has been used or for how many times.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
'Holy moly' - sperm donor comes face to face with his children 20 years later
The Guardian |  16 February 2007
Six US girls find sperm donor dad
BBC News Online |  15 February 2007
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