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Sperm donors deserve praise

Robyn Riley Sunday Herald Sun December 19, 2010

A FRIEND recently revealed he had fathered a baby. No cigars though, just a carefully worded statement."I have been told there is a pregnancy, but I don't know the mother, or when the baby will be born."

Say again? My friend explained that after 20 years of thinking about it, he had become a sperm donor. MORE

 

 

 

 

Donors

 

Are you currently considering donating sperm, ovum or embryos to assist an infertile person or persons who wish to conceive a child?

You may have a very personal reason for wanting  to  help  others  in  this  way,   and  perhaps even know the people you want your donation to help. You may simply want to “help others”, or share your good fortune as a parent, and not know or care who will benefit from your donation. The decision may seem a simple and uncomplicated one.

You are to be congratulated for your desire to help others in this special way. However, if you do make the decision to donate, this will have an important impact on the people who receive your donation, on the person who is born as a result of your donation, and even on you.

About Gamete Donation....

Donor Insemination, or DI, has been practiced for many years in Australia. In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) techniques have also allowed women to donate ovum (or “eggs”) and couples to donate embryos.

In the midst of all this technology,  it can be easy to forget just exactly what is being done. The donation of sperm, ovum or embryos is not the same as the donation of kidneys, livers, and hearts

A whole person will be created. And not just a newborn baby, but  a  person  who will  become  first  a young  child,  then  a teenager, then a young adult, and eventually a parent and grandparent in his/her own right.

This person, and his/her family, will have the same needs as other individuals and their families. The need to be safe and secure. The need to be loved. The need to be treated with respect. The need to know about personal heritage and history.

Not Your Child....

Donating your sperm, ovum or embryos allows for the creation of a person who will be cherished by people who have longed for a child. You may rightly say that the child who is created is not your child, even thought he or she is genetically your offspring. That the parents who raise the child will be the parents in every sense.

All  parents  will  tell  you  that  it  is the  challenges  and   traumas  of  parenting,  not just the “birthing”,  which creates strong bonds between parents and children. Most adopted people and their adoptive parents have strong, positive feelings about adoption and develop close relationships that last a lifetime. Parents and children don’t need to share genetic material to love and be committed to each other.

However, more than one hundred years of adoption experiences in this country has taught us that genetics are important too.

How Gamete Donation Affects Children and
Families...And Donors

It was once believed that adopted children would not want or need information about their “birth” parents, if the adoption was a success. It was even believed that children  who were adopted would be better never knowing of the adoption. It was also thought that birth parents didn’t care about, and would be better never knowing about, the child who was adopted. In short, everyone should just get on with life and forget about  the  adoption.    The  adoption   was   an  “event”    that      had happened, not a process that would continue to have an effect on the individuals and families involved.

Some people would prefer to believe that people born using donated gametes will not want or need information about the donor, to whom they are genetically related. They would probably be better off not even knowing the truth of their conception. The donors won’t want or need to know how their offspring are faring, because they are “not their children”. The donation of the sperm, ovum or embryo was just something that once happened.

We now know that it is normal and healthy for adopted people to want to know the truth of their origins, and to need information about their genetic history. We now know that adoptive parents want and need this information too.

We also know that birth parents often think of the child they gave up for adoption, want to know if he/she is well and happy. They don’t want to take over parenting the adopted person but they don’t stop caring or wondering, either.

Both parents and offspring of families created using gamete donation are increasingly stating that they also want and need to have information about the gamete donor.

We now also know that many donors think of the child that was created, and wonder about his/her welfare and whether he/she has questions about them. Most donors don’t expect that they will feel this way, but find the donation, and the growing  child or children probably conceived as a result, play on their mind as time goes on.

All of this is normal.

The Impact of Your Decision to Donate

Obviously there are many people, and a great many issues to consider in your decision about whether or not to donate your gametes. No one is more important than the person who will be created; your genetic offspring, but your own feelings are very important too.

Take some time to consider how you might feel about your donation in years to come. One or more people may come to exist as a result of your donation. They will genetically be your children, although legally, and socially, they will be the children of the parents to whom you are donating your gametes. They may eventually have children who will be your genetic grandchildren.

You have a special and indisputable link to any child you helped to create, and therefore some very special responsibilities which no one else can assume on your behalf.

Can you imagine how donor offspring might feel? To wonder about who they may look like, where they get their talents and personality traits from, what their genetic family history is and what this may suggest about their own potential? To wonder why you donated, and if you cared about their future?

How would you feel if your genetic offspring needed a lifesaving bone marrow transplant from you in the future? Or felt a desperate need to meet with and talk to you, even if just once?

Can you imagine how it must feel for parents of children with all these questions? Will these parents be able to answer their children’s questions?

How would you respond if, one day in the future, you were asked to meet with your genetic offspring and his/her parents? Your answer may depend on whether you keep your donation a secret from important people in your life, or not. It may also depend on how many genetic offspring arise from your donation.

At this time, it may seem easier for you to focus on the creation of a healthy baby for loving people who have longed to be parents.

If you don’t feel comfortable with the responsibilities of donation, then don’t ignore them. Don’t donate!

How You Can Really Help....

If, after reading this information sheet and discussing your decision with friends and family, you still want to donate your gametes, that will be terrific. But whatever you do, don’t simply leave your gametes at the clinic!
As a first step, it is important that you leave information about yourself that both parents and the child can have access to. Medical history is important, but so is information about your personal history, your personality and talents, and how you feel about the donation. You can leave a letter, and even a photo, at the clinic at which you donate.

It is also important that you are open to a possible request for information, and maybe even contact, at some time in the future. To do this, it will probably be important for you to tell special people in your life about the donation, and the possibility that you have genetic offspring who may need some information and/or contact with you at some time.

Make sure that you leave enough identifying information with the clinic to enable you to be found in the future.

If you feel uncomfortable about having a number of genetic offspring. then you may wish to ask the clinic at which you donate to limit the number of pregnancies which arise from your donation.

Getting Support

It’s possible that you don’t know anyone else who has donated gametes. You may think you don’t know any parents whose children were born using donated gametes, or any people who were themselves conceived using donated gametes.

You might have thought this would be an easy decision, and now realise it isn’t. If that has been a painful realisation, take heart in the knowledge that it is an important one, and you are now much better equipped to make, and live with, this important decision.

Creating a life, and a family, is a powerful and generous act.

It is important that you get as much information as you can about the consequences of your decision.

Talk to people about your decision. If you feel you can’t, that may be a sign that donation isn’t right for you. A secret as enormous as this will be hard to bear for a lifetime, and may prevent you from fulfilling your responsibilities to your genetic offspring.

Other donors, adult people who were conceived using donated gametes, and parents whose children were conceived using donated gametes, may be able to help you to make a decision that is right for you, and those who will be affected by your decision. If you don’t know people with these personal experiences, contact the Donor Conception Support Group of Australia. They can help potential donors of sperm, ovum and  embryos,

and can give you important insight into the complicated issue of gamete donation.

 

It is very important that you don’t rush your decision. Take time to make a well-informed decision that you feel you can live with for the rest of your life. A decision that you feel will have positive implications for those who will be affected by it.

 

 

 

Research

 

NEWS Articles

 

Israeli sperm donor wants his stuff back
2 Mar 2013. BioEdge
http://www.bioedge.org/index.php/bioethics/bioethics_article/10418
 
Galit, a 39-year-old single mother living in Florida, has conceived a
daughter with the sperm of an Israeli donor. She purchased five more samples and stored them in a sperm bank. However, when she decided to conceive another child, she was told that the man had withdrawn his consent. After a religious conversion he felt remorseful about allowing his sperm to be used by a woman he did not know to conceive a child he did not love.
 
Galit was outraged at this injustice and launched a lawsuit. Her daughter must have a biological full-sibling, she contends. ³It is out of the question for a sperm donor to change his mind. I planned a family, and then, one fine day, after donating sperm - and who knows how many children he has already - he changes his mind. He changed his way of life, but what about my way of life?²
 
The High Court of Justice was sympathetic, but supported the sperm donor¹s right of autonomy. ³One can understand the viewpoint of a person who, after thinking it over, reached the conclusion - which he had not entertained when he decided, for various reasons, to donate sperm - that he does not want
children to be born from his sperm, because he did not choose them or their mother, has no ties with them and will not raise them.²
 
Galit begs to differ. ³All through the judgment the justices refer to his feelings, but no one mentioned my feelings. I am a mother raising a daughter alone.² She plans to appeal the ruling.
 
************************
His or hers: Who owns a donor's sperm?
That question is at the heart of a recent High Court ruling concerning a donor who changed his mind and wants his sperm back, much to the fury of the woman who purchased it.
Feb.24, 2013. Haaretz
http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/his-or-hers-who-owns-a-donor-s-sperm-1. 505332
 
... the High Court of Justice found that the donor¹s right to change his mind after making the donation takes precedence over the recipient¹s right to use the sperm in order to give birth to biological siblings for her daughter.
 
Through her lawyer Galit requested an additional hearing with an expanded panel of justices [arguing that] the judgment:
* ³creates a harsh new legal situation and a judicial reality which is
difficult to accept.² * ³validated a disproportionate infringement of the rights of women who receive sperm donations and of the appellant in particular.² * is liable ³to undermine the stability of the sperm banks in Israel and of the recipient public.²
 
In the trial, an emotional letter from the donor explaining his decision [said] ³Some time ago I was married, and with God¹s help a son was born to us. The harm done to my wife, and which I believe will also be done to my children [when I will have to tell them, in the future] is my responsibility. The uncertainty they will have to endure in being aware that they have siblings whom they do not know is terrible, and I deeply regret having done this to my near ones.² He also writes in the letter that he does not want a child to whom he will not be able to give love, from a woman he
doesn¹t love.
 
The court addressed extensively the possible damage to his autonomy if he were forced into paternity against his will. ³Unavoidable harm, relating to the subjective moral conscience, befalls a person as a result of his feeling that a child who sprang from his loins is Œwalking about in the world¹ and he cannot or does not wish to devote love and attention to him,² the justices wrote.
 
Galit has little sympathy for the donor.²I cannot understand him. He talks about emotional harm, but I am raising a daughter without a father, and it is certainly important for her to have a blood tie to someone. He notes that he got married in the meantime and has a son, and suddenly he sees what it entails, so I would expect him to understand what it means to prevent my daughter from having biological siblings. And no one is promising me that I will have children from the sperm of another man. It succeeded with his
sperm, so he should respect my desire.²
 
Galit: ³He cannot claim fatherly feelings, because he is not a father - he has no commitment and I want nothing from him. And who says that in another few years he will not say suddenly, ŒI am depressed, because I don¹t know my daughter¹ and will demand to see her? Will the court show him consideration again because he changed his way of life? I have the feeling that the court opened a door by affirming his feelings as a father, and that could be an
opening to the affirmation of more paternal feelings in the future.²
 
If the donor is not a father in any sense, then why is it important to Galit that her next child be conceived with his sperm? ³He is not the father of my girl, but she is my daughter, and it is very important for me that her siblings have the same genetic makeup. It is very difficult to raise a single-parent family as it is, and to explain to my daughter that she came into being as a result of a sperm donation. And then I have to explain that her brother came from the sperm of another man? And who is to say that the next donor won¹t change his mind? There is also the consideration of the genetic structure that is unique to her, to me and to the donor. If, heaven
forbid, she will need a bone-marrow donation, a donation from a full biological sibling has a greater chance of working. There are many more implications. I work in a religious school in the United States, and the whole episode caused a lot of waves there. Some people don¹t understand how I can do something like that - children from different donors.²
 
Surprisingly, Justice Barak-Erez addressed the donor at the conclusion of her section of the judgment. She expressed the hope that ³the petitioner¹s struggle and her pain will prompt him to give the matter further thought after the end of the legal proceedings.² Galit draws a bit of encouragement from this. ³I read it as a hint from her to him: Do the decent thing. Make a distinction between the law and the decent thing.²
 
Galit is hopeful that an expanded panel of judges may regard her case more favorably. ³All through the judgment the justices refer to his feelings, but no one mentioned my feelings. I am a mother raising a daughter alone. My hope is, though maybe I am naive, that a different panel with more justices will think differently and consider my emotional side, too, and will deal with the implications for my future and my daughter¹s future.²
 
And if the judgment is unchanged? ³I am not thinking along those lines, because I hope they will change the decision. I am taking it one step at a time and my hope is that a larger panel will consider different angles.²
 
Would you like to see him punished? ³No. I have nothing personal against him. Without him my daughter would not exist. But if, for example, I was told that he wants the sperm donations back because he had an accident and cannot have children, I would look at the whole affair differently. I would take into account his situation as a person who did something good for me. But he treated me cruelly insensitively. Even if he changed his mind, the
moment he was told that there is a single mother who is counting on his sperm, I find it cruel that he went on with the battle and is preventing my daughter from having biological siblings. I urge him to reconsider his decision so that I will be able to build my family. Who knows - a day might come when everything will turn topsy-turvy and he will need help from me and my daughter. If so, I will be ready to help him.²