Anonymous Father’s Day

This morning I watched the film Anonymous Father’s Day.  Made by the US based Center  for Bioethics and Culture it explores the stories of women and men who are conceived by sperm donation or, tellingly, as the film sleeve says, ‘are the children of sperm donors’.  And I guess the difference between these descriptions of people conceived by sperm donation sums up the different approaches and attitudes to the acceptability of donor conception as a method of family creation.  Those offspring who think of their donor as a father (and this film is only about sperm donation) and of gamete donation as a deliberate separation of biological parent and child, are almost bound to come to the conclusion that this is an unacceptable way for children to come into the world.  Those who view their donor as someone with whom they have a definite genetic link, but owe no more to than gratitude for the gift he made to their parents, are comfortable with donor conception.  Some have even said they would be happy to use it themselves should the need arise.  How do these differences come about?

Stephanie, whose story is told in the film, wondered whilst she was growing up about why she didn’t look at all like her father.  Her mother told her about her origins when she was 32, already a mother herself, and only when Stephanie enquired about her father’s on-going health problems and how they might affect her family.  She was naturally deeply shocked.  Interestingly enough, she says she is pleased that she did not know as a child as she feels she may have been unkind to her father, whom she loves, as a result of this knowledge.  She does not seem to know that young children are highly unlikely to behave in this way, even if a parent is cruel, because of the attachment bond between parents (whether or not they are genetically connected) and children.  Stephanie would like to find her ‘father’ whom she knows is Jewish and is one of those adults who believes that donor conception is a wrongful separation between kin.

Alana is the second adult we hear from at length.  She is in her early twenties and was first told about her sperm donor origins at around age 5.  She recalls her mother being stressed at the time of telling.  Alana has a sister who was adopted from Korea.  Both children came into the family during their mother’s first marriage.  When this marriage ended the girl’s ‘father’ wanted custody of Alana’s sister but not her, because she reminded him too much of the woman he was divorcing.  This must have been an enormously painful rejection for Alana.  On re-marriage Alana’s mother and step-father went on to have a biological child between them.  I have met Alana, enjoyed talking with her enormously, and know that the situation in her family affected and continues to affect her profoundly.  What is unclear to me is how much this has to do with her being conceived by sperm donation.

The third adult we hear from is Canadian film-maker Barry Stevens who has made two very impressive documentaries himself about his search for his donor and half-siblings.  I find Barry’s testimony the most convincing of all, partly because again I have met him personally and DC Network has played a part in bringing his half-siblings to light, but mostly because his position seems less polarised and more nuanced than the others.  He is very clear that no-one has a right to withhold significant information about a person from a person, but he stops short of saying that donor conception per se is wrong.  In fact he has been quoted in the past as saying that he has both a dad and a donor and that it is the man who raised him who deserves the first title.

Both Alana and researcher Elizabeth Marquardt speak of the anger that donor conceived people can find themselves at the receiving end of when they speak out about their feelings.  It is as if what they say touches something very raw that many adults do not want expose themselves to.  I know that Alana suffered badly at a meeting of psychologists and counsellors.  This is inexcusable.  As a parent of donor conceived adults and counsellor myself I abhor this behaviour.  It is vital that we listen to all donor conceived people with respect.  But my problem with this film was that, apart from Barry Stevens, we were hearing from those who had had very poor experiences.  Where were the DC adults who do not feel that their donor is a father or that they have been deliberately separated from people who are family to them.  I know lots of them as well as those whose views support the thesis of this film…which in the end is that donor conception is inevitably damaging for the ‘children’.

Anonymous Father’s Day provides very powerful evidence for changes to be made in the way that donor conception is carried out in the United States, referred to by more than one contributor as the Wild West of assisted reproduction. It is a potent plea for the very greatest care and consideration to be given to the needs of children conceived with the help of a donor.  The fact of donation AND information about who that person is IS meaningful information and belongs to the donor conceived person and no-one else.  But I was sad that in the end that the film moved beyond calling for changes in policy and practice and more in the direction of recommending abolishing donor conception altogether.

Researchers and ethicists can debate the rights and wrongs of creating children this way till the end of the century but in the meantime people will be finding ways to have the child they desire so deeply.  Donor conception could go underground but is not going to go away. Why not concentrate on banning anonymity, ending payment for donors (shame on the HFEA for introducing payment in the UK), setting up central registries, supporting parents in being open with their children and keeping the needs of donor conceived people at the heart of everything we do.

http://www.anonymousfathersday.com/purchase/

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About oliviasview

Co-founder and now Practice Consultant at Donor Conception Network. Mother to two donor conceived adults and a son conceived without help in my first marriage.
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63 Responses to Anonymous Father’s Day

  1. Hi Olivia,

    You said about me, “She does not seem to know that young children are highly unlikely to behave in this way, even if a parent is cruel, because of the attachment bond between parents (whether or not they are genetically connected) and children.”

    I wasn’t making a blanket statement about all donor conceived people – I was making a point about how I personally probably would have been (as a teen not as a young child). My statement was about my own nature. But even if I was trying to make a statement about others, it isn’t that far off base. I have five children…I have a little insight into how children can act toward their parents!

    You also said, “But my problem with this film was that, apart from Barry Stevens, we were hearing from those who had had very poor experiences.” You are defining “poor experience” as the feeling that we are cut off from biological family, therefore are unhappy with the method of creation. Is this an accurate assessment? If so, then yes, I would say I’ve had a “poor experience”.

    I was raised by a wonderful man. I love him. I had a good childhood. By this estimate, I had a good experience. My mother’s doctor, had he returned my phone calls and knew my situation, would have said that mine was a good outcome.

    So is the only reason I am against donor conception altogether (yes, altogether!) because I am missing my father, half siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, family history, etc.? No. It’s because my standard of right and wrong isn’t based upon experience, good or bad. It’s based upon what a family – a husband and wife – is according to Scripture. But that’s a whole other topic.

  2. oliviasview says:

    Hi Stephanie
    Thanks for taking the time to comment. By ‘poor experience’ I meant, in your case, that you had been deceived about your origins for so long. I should have been clearer.
    Your last sentence, “It’s based upon what a family – a husband and wife – is according to Scripture. But that’s a whole other topic.” ….is, as you say, a whole other topic and I’m not intending to go there.
    Olivia

  3. My parent's donor is my father says:

    “But I was sad that in the end that the film moved beyond calling for changes in policy and practice and more in the direction of recommending abolishing donor conception altogether.”

    I’ve watched the movie a few times now but I don’t remember (or didn’t pick up on) any proposal or recommendation or even insinuation that ‘donor’ conception be abolished altogether. What part of the movie are you referring to?

  4. oliviasview says:

    Hi Karen
    You are right, no-one specifically mentions abolishing donor conception but towards the end Elizabeth M, Stephanie and Alana all talk along the lines of ‘openness is not enough’…people shouldn’t be allowed to separate biological kin in this way (this is not actual dialogue but my interpretation of it). I have only seen the film once but the message felt pretty clear to me by the end. How would you interpret that kind of thing?

  5. My parent's donor is my father says:

    I think, and I could be wrong, that ‘openness is not enough’ means honesty and identity disclosure at (16/18?) is not enough. And I’d agree with that. Of course I have a bias, I wouldn’t have wanted any other dad than my one and only dad but I would have loved to have had a meaningful relationship with biological father from the beginning – and wished my dad and my father (and our extended families) could have embraced each other from the beginning.

    Unrealistic? Absolutely.

    I don’t think the movie makes a specific statement like that but leaves in open to people to consider and ponder. I support that.

  6. Jennifer says:

    Hello Olivia and others,

    Thank you for the opportunity to weigh in on the film that I made. I have a few comments and may comment again if/as the conversation moves forward. Regarding the three stories we focused on, we intended to show several perspectives of the donor conceived,while making an educational 40 plus minute film. Oh the hard job of the editor! It was intentional for us that we showed these stories. From my earlier film, Eggsploitation, there was criticism that we didn’t show the “happy egg donors/I’d do it again story” as we feel the industry is already heavily biased to the happy stories and very little focus/attention is paid to those “unsuccessful” or “tragic” stories. Yes, we could have found donor-conceived people who are quite fine with never knowing, not being the least curious, knowing and having a wonderful extended family life but in my mind, the question which still needs to be asked before we walk down the road of donor-conception is IF this child created will be OK with the story of their conception, being created intentionally separated from their biological family . . . and that as Elizabeth Marquardt so eloquently states in the film, places a big burden on the child. It is a roll of the dice. This remains a huge social experiment on the lives of others who can not give their consent. That being said, I agree with Karen, in that the film intended to raise a lot of questions 1) is anonymity OK 2) should legislation remove payment, anonymity, number of times donations can be made 3) should we even be doing this at all 4) what are the rights of the children.

    Here’s to moving the conversation forward with mutual civility!

    Jennifer

  7. oliviasview says:

    Hi Jennifer
    Thanks for contributing. I do absolutely understand the editor’s dilemma. Civil conversations always welcome.
    Olivia

  8. Pingback: Olivia Montuschi responds to “Anonymous Father’s Day” « Family Scholars

  9. marilynn says:

    I cannot wait to see the movie because so many of my friends are featured in it and because this has become a topic near and dear to my heart. Today I’m going to visit my congressperson to try and get a Federal law that recognizes people who are genetically related as legal kin. Especially siblings. If the practice is going to continue then the siblings must be legally recognized as siblings and not legal strangers. I’ll start with those who are in reunion and then…then we’ll see if its fair to leave those who are not yet in reunion out of that loop.

    I am looking for a site that shows the whole movie. Where is everyone viewing it at? The premier is later this month.

  10. oliviasview says:

    I pre-ordered the DVD via the web site Marilynn. You can do this too.

  11. Kelly says:

    As a Donor recruiter, I have seen many many good experiences and have also seen more than enough bad experiences. I often feel like a hypocrite asking young women to do something I myself could and would not do, nor would I want my daughter to do. I personally would need to know who my eggs were going to (I would want to pick them instead of them picking me! after all I am giving them a piece of me.) and I would need to know the outcome. I feel that most (not all) donors do have good intentions but I also have never, in my 13 years of recruiting, had a donor decline a compensation check. I also feel most (not all) recipients have good intentions with the selection process. I personally feel the current future of the donation industry is headed in the wrong direction. People are wanting to buy eggs and sperm like they are looking for living room furniture and are either forgetting or disregarding the fact that there is a human being on the other end. Money is taking priority over human emotions. In my opinion more defined guidelines and regulations would be beneficial to all parties who are considering either dontaing or receiving.

    This is just my opinion……..

  12. Marjorie Campbell says:

    I appreciate Kelly’s risky comment here, as well the discussion. The “donor” industry is a profit-driven industry heavily invested in normalizing the commodization of human reproduction. Criticizing this industry, calling for abolition of their product line, provokes the same big-business industry disapproval that the first questions about cigarette smoking and tobacco use provoked. Jennifer Lahl, who made Anonymous Father’s Day and the documentary Eggsploitation, has exposed what this blog site wants to call “poor experiences” – which is precisely what the industry wants. If we think of conception as a commercial practice that helps people get children they want … that will eventually help you get the sex, eye color, physical traits (remember the story a few years back of the two deaf mothers who wanted a deaf child so they shopped for a “deaf” sperm) …. that this is net good commercial practice (very similar to products’ liability analysis) which will have a few cases that go wrong … then the industry has most certainly won and avoided the very questions/challenges that Lahl and this documentary raise. It saddens me when our mental health professionals buy into it – but then, the mental health professionals aren’t focusing on the women hurt by egg donation, the children raised without knowledge of their biological parents or, worse, being told that they “should not feel badly” about not having a bio Mom and a bio Dad because it will hurt their “parents” feelings except as “poor experiences.” It is my hope that the mental health professionals will consider broader issues and reflect with compassion on the longer term consequences to all of us of allowing this industry to normalize conception as a commercial product. All the regulation in the world does not change tobacco into a healthy product, do you honestly think that regulation can make commerical conception a mentally & emotionally healthy start for children & families?

  13. Jennifer says:

    Marilynn,

    For a few more days, the film will be available for instant download here:

    https://prescreen.com/movie/Anonymous-Fathers-Day?ui=allmovies#autoplay

    Our contract with prescreen is for 60days (per their agreement) and we put it here to allow for
    many to see it quickly while we were in mass DVD production mode. You can order it over at
    http://www.anonymousfathersday.com too and also read a lot of the buzz on the film.

  14. oliviasview says:

    Thank you for your contribution. I’m sorry you don’t like my phrase ‘poor experiences’. If it helps at all I too deplore commercial conception. We had been managing to largely avoid that in the UK until our regulator shamefully introduced payment, under the name ‘compensation’ in 2011.
    My bottom line remains that donor conception is not going to go away. Better regulate to make it as good as it can be for children…but I’m afraid in the States the industry is rampant and will not be cut back easily.

  15. Jennifer says:

    Marjorie,

    I agree with you that regulation certainly won’t make something safe or make it easier for the children created through these technologies. All the regulation in the world won’t restore a woman’s fertility or put a deconstructed family back together. If our hope is in regulation, or even an industry which self-regulates, they will have won to be sure. As one LCSW who counsels in third-party reproduction once told me, “we need to keep our hands off of other people’s children”.

  16. oliviasview says:

    “we need to keep our hands off of other people’s children”…can I get clarification on this please. Does this refer to children created through donation? If so, we are back to the ‘intention to parent argument’ and I’ve already been through that in response to an earlier post. I am quite clear that donors are very important people with an undeniable genetic connection to children they help create, but they do not intend or wish to be parents. Those receiving donated gametes very much wish to parent. Donors have responsibilities to children: to be available to them from age 18 to give more information, fillings in gaps in medical or psycho-social histories…but not as parents. Children have parents and a donor, as Barry Stevens has previously said. Do debate this again if you wish but I doubt if I will join in as the positions seem pretty polarised on this point.

  17. marilynn says:

    May I ask your opinion Olivia on what’s say people are allowed to continue reproducing without having to take care of the resulting children – and anonymity either remains or is abolished – how do you feel about the legal recognition of genetic relationships? Say the legal right to be recognized and recorded as the siblings they are rather than being nothing more than legal strangers. Anyone who finds their sibling or donor should’nt they for the sake of posterity, public health and a host of legal reasons be considered brothers and sisters? I mean otherwise they could legally get married or their children could and we would not want that would we?

  18. marilynn says:

    And what if their legal parents die as they are likely to much earlier than their genetic parents – and they are in reunion with their genetic families….shouldnt they be considered the children cousin etc of their genetic family member? Even their genetic parent who donated to their social parent? Wouldn’t it be better to correct the records for public health purposes especially if the people whose feelings would be hurt are already no longer alive? I know many of the people I reunite wait until their adoptive parents are dead so as not to hurt their feelings or make them angry. They would very much like to correct the record and so would many who were fathered by donors.

  19. concerned says:

    I found your site while angry and upset that my partner of nearly 10 years has donated his sperm to a clinic behind my back. We were planning to have children soon, and I feel disgusted. The clinic is run by the NHS, and they did not fully discuss the social and ethical implications with him, nor did they advise him to let me know that he was doing this. He tried scrambling to get it all back once he realized how upsetting this was to me, but it turns out that it was too late. I would like those who use DI to remember that this material ends up in banks in a number of ways. Sometimes people need money, sometimes they want to do good for the world, and sometimes they make a terrible mistake that they are not able to undo. I am not trying to make anyone feel badly about where they came from, just trying to point out that donor insemination is not always socially fitting for all parties involved. The NHS and other organizations should place less emphasis on how wonderful DI is, and more on social and ethical implications.
    *I do not want to be a part of this community, and I prefer to remain anonymous, which is why I have not included my correct email address. Regardless, I believe that my message has a place here. Thank you for letting me know about the film above- but considering the comments by the DI children on this page, I think that I am right to assume that sperm donors should understand the implications of their actions. This is currently not a priority, and it should be.

    • oliviasview says:

      Hi
      I am so very sorry that the clinic where your partner donated sperm did not insist that you were not only informed but had the opportunity to talk with them yourself about what he was contemplating doing. This was very wrong of them. I assume his sperm was used very quickly (perhaps he donated some time ago because the first sample would have to be quarantined for six months) because a donor has the right to put a stop to his or her gametes being used right up to the last moment. Please be assured that DC Network would never support a clinic behaving in such a way…particularly given the responsibility of donors to be available to offspring in 18 years time. If you would like to let me know the name of the clinic where he donated in an email to enquiries@dcnetwork.org we can report them to the HFEA for breaching guidelines for good practice. Thank you for contributing.

    • concerned says:

      I just want to let you know how touched I am by your reply. This is very fresh for me, and I am unable to talk to anyone about it at the moment. I will reach out and get the clinic’s name to you if I can determine exactly which one it is, because I don’t think that anyone wants misinformed participants involved in DI. I realize that this is not entirely the clinic’s fault- my partner should have had the sense to discuss this with me. I am not sure what to think at the moment, but thanks for providing these resources on your blog.

      • marilynn says:

        Tell your partner that if his offspring come knocking – its ok and you’ll organize a yearly bbq and help him keep track of their birthdays. Tell him you won’t make him feel bad for getting to know them if they want to. And tell him to get the rest of his sperm back if he has to tear the walls of the place down. Its his it belongs to him it should not matter what he signed. He should have the autonomy to stop reproducing if he chooses or to limit the women who he reproduces with to just you now.

  20. Jennifer says:

    “We need to keep our hands off other people’s children” was said to me in the spirit of donors of donated (or sold) sperm and egg are the biological parents of the children. And we as people who want a child via gamete donation should ‘keep our hands off’ their gametes, because they are another’s child. Yes, it is a tough pill to swallow, but I find many working within the industry are very critical of the work they are involved in, which is telling us something right there. No need to rehash this. I’m never seen your blog before so understand if you’ve already discussed this aspect.

  21. DC Mum says:

    I feel the needs of dc people who are not at all concerned with their conception, are more than well taken care of as far as legislation and law provide. Of course there are the thousands who have not even been informed they were donor conceived simply because their parents are allowed to deceive them (can we include love and deception in the same relationship?), however for the majority of dc people, who have been informed, the laws and system very sadly do not provide for them in an acceptable way.
    I acknowledge that this whole industry is so complex that it is not possible to cover every single situation in an hour, however one point I would like to make is that the dc person is not only biologically linked to the “donor”, there are grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins all who have had a member of their biological family donated, sold, (whatever you like to call it) away. On and on it goes. Personally I wouldn’t like to be wondering where my grandchild was, who he/she is and what her/his life if like and who his or her parents may be, or that I may never ever have the opportunity of being in their lives. We are talking “deliberately” here, not from circumstance as in adoption.
    I think this is an excellent documentary and acknowledgement that these are not just babies we are creating but people who deserve a voice and to be listened to.
    The only experts on how dc people feel. Listen to them. They are trying so hard to not hurt their parents and family and yet at the same time to be human and to have the ability to have rights to their own being, as the rest of us are born entitled to.

  22. marilynn says:

    Thank you Olivia for considering the idea that “immediate family” and “next of kin” and “sibling” and “1st Cousin” are terms and words with incredible legal weight. What if someone in reunion wanted to help their sibling immigrate? Or wanted to help care for them if they were extremely ill? Or wanted to take time off of work to attend their funeral? Or wanted to take in their neices and nephews in a time of crisis rather than have them end up in foster care?

    Their birth certificates do not share at least one parent therefore they are legal strangers. This is not fair to them. Does legal recognition of genetic kinship have to trump legal recognition of social kinship?

    The more moderate people in favor of Donor Conception feel that it is important to end anonymity and to foster relationships between siblings when possible and I think that is a step in the right direction. I’d like the more moderate ones to ask themselves if they’d be threatened by their child being treated as the legal sibling of the donor’s other offspring so that, for instance, they would not be legally allowed to marry and neither would their children as first cousins or inter-generationally as donor/offspring or grandparent/grandchild or as aunt/nephew/niece or uncle/nephew/nephew. I’m not talking about eliminating their social or adoptive sibling relationships but adding to them. At minimum for public health and for the offspring’s general equality with the rest of free society.

  23. Alana S. says:

    To Kelly & Concerned…

    Both of your stories would be SO welcome on AnonymousUs.org.
    We definitely need more stories from people among the fertility industry AND for those affected that are not specifically social parents or donors. Would really love to have you both write something. http://www.AnonymousUs.org

    Olivia-
    After meeting Zannah I can honestly say she is an amazing amazing woman and I really think that you and your husband did such a good job. You’ve proven again and again that your emotional intelligence and desire to not only be parents, but be GREAT parents was a driving force in your decision to use ART.

    But what is it about your husband that made him such a great dad to your kids and what keeps you from supporting regulatory measures that screen and filter prospective parents (just as rigorously as adoption) due to the FACT that the number one predictor of child-abuse/neglect is a lack of biological connection (The Cinderella Effect)?

    • oliviasview says:

      Hi Alana
      Thanks very much for your lovely words about Zannah and Walter and me. I don’t think we are exceptional in any way…or certainly not in terms of members of DC Network where we see examples of outstanding parenting every day. I think it takes a man whose sense of self is not diminished by his infertility to be a good DI dad. This came easily to Walter but we have seen it happen as a process over time to many men who are given the opportunity to grieve their lost fertility and move on. Our emphasis on this process, partly emotional, partly educational makes it possible for honest family relationships to flourish. Where families have this level of emotional intelligence child abuse/neglect is highly unlikely to occur. I agree that non-bio connections can be a risk factor in step-families but I have yet to come across a case of abuse/neglect in a donor conception family (in the UK, don’t know about elsewhere) and think it much less likely to happen because of the child being born into the family, and particularly if the dad has had the opportunity to face his infertility and integrate it into his sense of self BEFORE becoming a father.

  24. Marjorie Campbell says:

    “I am quite clear that donors are very important people with an undeniable genetic connection to children they help create, but they do not intend or wish to be parents.” Respectfully, Olivia, I find this assertion troubling. Can we reasonably separate “being a parent” from the biological contribution to the conception of a child? And even if some/most adults can, can children? Honestly, I’d have thought in my younger years that children wouldn’t care that much about their biological parents but case after case just proves that idea wrong. I am sure you know (are yourself) a “good case” or “good experience” but how many “bad cases” or “bad experiences” does it take before we conclude that the attempt to convince children that their “bio parents” aren’t parents at all, just a “genetic connection,” is not worth the pain and damage done to children? Hmmm. I try to imagine presenting tobacco and smoking with that kind of perspective: my grandmother, for example, lived to 89 and smoked much of her life. She had a “good experience” with smoking; no cancer, no emphysema, no asthma. Of course, some people can smoke and it’s not bad for them at all. Yet, I completely agree that smoking should be discouraged (taxed and regulated) because the bad cases are common and deadly and it’s appropriate for government to try to protect people against very bad, expensive choices, right? Well, I imagine time will shed more and more light upon this burgeoning industry – where the children are only now growing into adults who can finally give voice to the child perspective. I hope that professionals like yourself will not invalidate the poor experiences that people are/will have because of emotional or finanical investment in the success of the industry. It is too bad that here in the US we do an “environmental impact study” before we implement any change that might harm nature, but we are experimenting with conception, children and rather basic human emotions without much consideration at all to the impact on us as people. Thanks for letting us discuss.

  25. oliviasview says:

    Marjorie…thank you for your arguments, which are interesting and persuasive. However, I do know many donor conceived young adults who find they can easily separate out ‘being a parent’ from the biological and genetic contribution made by a donor. Our own daughter Zannah is one of them. She talks about what makes a real father…the man who was present when she was born, looked after her when she was a day old, changed many nappies (diapers), helped with homework and supports her in every way possible. She is also curious about her donor and half-siblings and would love to know more about them too, but she only has one dad.
    You are right, we cannot know how our children are going to feel and time will tell about the balance between those offspring who feel comfortable and those who do not. Our emphasis in DC Network is to work with parents and potential parents towards understanding the long-term implications of making families with the help of donor conception and thus creating the very best possible conditions for children to grow and flourish. I and DC Network have no ‘investment’ in the fertility industry. We do not solicit or receive funding from them. Our interest is only in healthy, well functioning families.
    As you will know the UK has some of the most advanced laws in the world with regard to rights for donor conceived people. Not perfect of course but much better than many other places, including the US. We encourage people to stay in the UK for fertility treatments so that their donor is identifiable for young people from age 18. We would rather see fewer babies born than have children conceived from highly paid, anonymous donors.

    • DC Mum says:

      “Marjorie…thank you for your arguments, which are interesting and persuasive. However, I do know many donor conceived young adults who find they can easily separate out ‘being a parent’ from the biological and genetic contribution made by a donor. Our own daughter Zannah is one of them. She talks about what makes a real father…the man who was present when she was born, looked after her when she was a day old, changed many nappies (diapers), helped with homework and supports her in every way possible. She is also curious about her donor and half-siblings and would love to know more about them too, but she only has one dad. You are right, we cannot know how our children are going to feel and time will tell about the balance between those offspring who feel comfortable and those who do not. Our emphasis in DC Network is to work with parents and potential parents towards understanding the long-term implications of making families with the help of donor conception and thus creating the very best possible conditions for children to grow and flourish. I and DC Network have no ‘investment’ in the fertility industry. We do not solicit or receive funding from them. Our interest is only in healthy, well functioning families. As you will know the UK has some of the most advanced laws in the world with regard to rights for donor conceived people. Not perfect of course but much better than many other places, including the US. We encourage people to stay in the UK for fertility treatments so that their donor is identifiable for young people from age 18. We would rather see fewer babies born than have children conceived from highly paid, anonymous donors”

      All due respect Olivia as I am to a DC mother…..eggs actually.
      I too, know many young DC adults who can easily separate the “father” and their “dad”.
      The whole point is, is that by age 18 they have basically lost the ability to form the life bond with their genetic family and this has been taken from them deliberately. They may become “friends”, they may form some kind of relationship “if” they are able to meet. They may not.
      Of course the social mother/father “is” the parent as far as the dc person is concerned however this was placed upon them not by circumstance as I have stated before, but was a deliberate decision to take the dc person’s biological and genetic family from them, at conception. 18 yrs I’m afraid is way too late to not cause some kind of emotional issues in many people.
      I think the whole point being made here is that it is believed that there is no way that we can create healthy fully functional families with taking anonymous sperm and eggs from a whole line of biological family history unknown to us and then throw in a little deception and the fact that this human we have created is not even allowed to know their own identity until age 18 – how on earth is this to be received well by the person this most affects – the child, person, adult we have created in this manner.
      Also as Barry said in the documentary……if biology doesn’t really matter then why does everyone try and create full siblings by using the same donors sperm?
      I used to cry and shout down dc people and my rights to be a mother, but I have listened to them as I want to be the best mother I can, and I have come to the conclusion that as honest as I am with my child, that there is going to be some careful navigation through the turbulent teens and many questions to answer. All I can say is that I am so much wiser and understanding now that I have listened instead of trying to defend our actions.
      I also feel that “donors” should be totally aware that they are donating, giving away, selling – not only genetic “material” but also with the known intention that a human being is to be created from this act. This in itself should equate to intentionally giving away a child?
      The above are the reasons I have “jumped fence” so to speak because I can see and feel what these people are saying is so obvious once I stopped defending myself and “listened”.

  26. oliviasview says:

    Hi DC Mum (does that mean you are in the UK?)
    I respect your views, but cannot agree with them. You seem to expect turbulent teenage years…and hormonal changes and the normal separation process will no doubt bring some…but I wonder how you might view a teenager on the topic of being donor conceived saying, “Just stop stressing about it mum, it’s no big deal!” It could just happen.

    Surely identity is formed from much more than genetic connection or inheritance. Our own daughter says she feels who she is (and she is now 25) has been shaped at least as much, if not more, by her upbringing and the experiences she has had. Eighteen feels like about the right age to me (and my daughter agrees with this too) to begin to maturely consider a donor’s part in creation and whether more information or contact with him or her is important.

    Also the whole business about ‘keeping our hands of other people’s children’ or as you say ‘intentionally giving away a child’ is based on a false premise. It takes gametes from two people to make a baby who then grows into a unique person. The person does not belong to the donor and is not available to be given away. The donor gives a very important element in the creation of life, but I do not see how that could ever equate to the rather dramatic, ‘giving away of a child’.

    You are right that donors should be absolutely aware of what they are doing and not go through with donation unless they fully understand the implications. Once again, I would rather see fewer babies born than have them conceived with the help of donors who did not full appreciate the enormity of their contribution. This is why DC Network has campaigned in the UK for ending of anonymity for donors and no payment, beyond expenses, so that there is no financial incentive.

    I have never felt the need to shout for my right to be a mother – I don’t think I have one particularly – and have always been open to listening to donor conceived people. I just haven’t come to the same conclusions.

    • DC Mum says:

      Olivia I find your views contradictory but then again I also find myself contradictory.
      I am after all a dc mother and I have used dc to obtain a child I would otherwise not have been able to have. My feelings and thoughts have changed dramatically in support of dc people and their rights as human beings in their own right.

      The majority of dc people I have met are not in favour of their conception and I have also found a few who will tell their parents that they are really ok and fine with it all…..only to have it all come tumbling down when they themselves have children of their own and it becomes very clear that they want to give their children what they themselves never had. Biological history. People dont always keep the same beliefs and feelings they have at this moment in time as we grow and learn and change.

      I myself have spoken to my child since being a baby so as this whole situation is as *normal* as I can possibly make it. So I never have to drop “the bomb”. Now I say “the bomb” but in so many circumstances the dc child has always felt a certain “disconnection” but not knowing quite what it may be. Is this fair?

      Yes I acknowledge my child may tell me “whats the big deal” but people also change as they grow and learn referring back to above where having a child of their own in many cases changes the whole dynamics of trained thought. Or even finding out that they dont really belong to the biological family of both parents is known to be a very traumatic experience for the majority, no matter the age.

      I think what is “false premise” are birth certificates falsely identifying a dc person as someone they in fact, are not. I also I don’t believe a person belongs to “anyone” (but themselves), which includes the donor or the parents, but ‘the person” does belong to a family biology history of blood line and genetics, which needs to be acknowledged.

      Being that the dc person – just like the rest of us – doesn’t *belong* to anyone in particular should in fact give them the right to know just exactly who they are.

      Also on the subject of false birth certificates, I of course would like to see my name as “mother” because that is my role, however I feel that my child and any other should indeed have some indication that dc has taken place and have the 3rd party (bio mother or father) named also so as deception cannot take place and also for reasons of unknown incest occurring.

      Truly this industry is just far too complex for any human being to undertake without the provision of complete transparency at the least.
      We of course will have to agree to disagree.

      I do however support your views of ending anonymity and payment. Perhaps also making this retrospective to right the wrongs which are now obvious or we wouldn’t be calling for this to happen now would we.

    • marilynn says:

      “Also the whole business about ‘keeping our hands of other people’s children’ or as you say ‘intentionally giving away a child’ is based on a false premise. It takes gametes from two people to make a baby who then grows into a unique person. The person does not belong to the donor and is not available to be given away. The donor gives a very important element in the creation of life, but I do not see how that could ever equate to the rather dramatic, ‘giving away of a child’.”

      The industry wants to keep us focused on the egg and the sperm of it, the sale or the donation of it. The commentor above is correct but she was careful not to say they sell their children.

      Would hopeful mothers be interested in purchasing sperm from a sterile man? How about sperm from a man that said he would not permit anyone to falsely aknowledge paternity of his offspring? So when it comes down to it, the sperm is only worth buying if it comes with a promise to relinquish his offspring to the end user right? They would not buy it from him if he did not agree to stay out of the lives of his offspring until they were 18. He would never be allowed to donate if he wanted to raise all of his offspring. He has to want to produce offspring and has to want to let other people raise them once they are born.

      There are clinics that buy sperm for pure research that promise no embryos will be created with it and no children will be born from it – but those are not the sperm donors we are concerned with. Its the ones who agree to give up their children – yes and give them up for money that we are talking about.

      The idea that a man is not giving up his child, that he is only giving up sperm is absurd. No man is a father at the moment of conception or in the 9 months of gestation. The moment of truth for a man taking responsibility for his offspring occurs at birth when there is a child to be cared for. The sperm donor says he will not be present for that moment of truth as long as he receives a small payment in advance of the birth he will never seek out contact with his child. He is selling his children. He signs an agreement and the bulk of duties under that agreement occur after his offspring are born, not before. Lots of contracts involve payment in advance for service provided in the future if and when something occurs like a warranty on a washing machine getting fixed if broken, he will stay away if his offspring are born. 18 years extended warranty. Lifetime warranty might come at a higher price.

      • oliviasview says:

        What do you think about men who actually do give away their sperm with no money changing hands at all? This happens often in UK clinics and privately all the time. They say they do it to help others become parents. They give away one ingredient in the potential for life, not actual children.

  27. oliviasview says:

    One of the differences between us may be that the majority of donor conceived people I have met are very comfortable with their origins. They of course do not feel the need to make their views public in the same way as those who are angry or distressed by their situation. They may well be curious about their donor as well, but do not feel that the fact of being donor conceived is anything other than a rather interesting thing about them. I do totally acknowledge, however, that some of this group may change to a different perspective as they get older and have children themselves. Who knows, that may include our own children. I am always open to changing my views, but at the moment, after 28 years of parenting donor conceived people and 19 years of DC Network, I’m pretty clear about where I stand.

    On the issue of birth certificates, I would be perfectly happy to see a system where there was notification on EVERY child’s BC to say that there may be further information about them held in a central place. Enquiry to this place would bring information about adoption or donor conception. I believe it breaches the privacy of a donor conceived person to have information about donor conception directly on the birth certificate. In the UK (and I think you are in Australia) birth certificates are public documents. I understand this is not the case in the US and don’t know about your country. Long birth certificates (everyone has a short one as well) are required to be produced on increasing numbers of occasions, including a child’s entry to school. I know some DC adults are keen for a change in order to make sure that parents tell their children about their origins. Others, like our children, feel it should be up to them to share the information with whom they choose. DC Network supports an educational approach to increase the number of parents telling their children. In the UK we are certainly winning on this one. There has been a sea change in the culture around ‘telling’ over the last five years or so.

    Retrospective removal of anonymity for donors is not going to happen. The UK Government has been very clear on this. I’m not sure I favour it anyway because we owe some duty of respect and responsibility to former donors not to break promises made to them. But I don’t suppose you agree with this.

    I’m enjoying our exchange anyway.

  28. DC Mum says:

    Olivia I am in Australia.
    You picked me – No I do not agree with not breaking promises made to donors of years ago.
    I believe – and so do you – that people can and most certainly do change their pattern of feelings and thoughts. I feel that past donors should be contacted as many have aged and matured and are more than willing to come forward if they are given the opportunity.
    I have met past donors who have been most willing to be contacted but did not initiate contact because of fear that the children or rather now adults, had not been informed of their conception and they may destroy the fairytale.
    I dont see one letter as harassment or breach – merely opportunity if the dc person is searching, or even the offer to be on a register as many maybe oblivious that these registers actually exist or finding them may just be something they mean to get around to one day in their busy lives.
    I feel siblings are of great importance also.
    Recently here in Australia there has been media about a young dc woman who has been found to have an aggressive form of bowel cancer and tumours have spread to her lungs and her liver. The Dr’s say that her form of cancer is genetic. This is not on her mothers side of the family.
    This young woman has been searching for her donor for years now and knows that she has numerous half siblings. It makes me angry that she cannot find out who her donor is and that also she cannot find out who her half siblings are. There is possibility and all likelihood that in meeting her half siblings that she may save lives as obviously they are quite likely to have the same genetic makeup. But we would much rather keep our skeletons in the closet. How ridiculous.
    I cant get my head around the “dark ages” attitude or the “family secrets”.
    I dont like love and deception in the same package. I cant see this working happily for any relationship.
    So thats about my stance on all this and I still have no idea why people claim that biological and genetic connection means nothing when it is of great importance to them at the same time to be able to use the same donors sperm so as their children are full siblings. Go figure.

  29. oliviasview says:

    Hi Sue
    If we are talking about asking donors if they would re-register as identifiable, I’m all for it. Sadly, we are having great difficulty in getting UK clinics to contact former donors for this purpose and the HFEA say it is not their job to do it. Some clinics have, most won’t spend the money on it. We are hoping to have a big campaign this year to advertise the fact that former donors can re-register and explaining why it is important for them to do so. And of course there are donors who didn’t have any choice but to donate anonymously in earlier times, when they would have been happy to be identifiable. Yes, people do definitely change their minds…and that’s OK. And you are right, half-sibs do seem to be of great importance to donor conceived people of all ages. More so that donors in our experience. I know about the Australian young woman with cancer and am very sad that it has not been possible to track down her donor.

    It’s interesting about the use of the same donor for siblings. We find from talking to parents in the Network that they imagine this is a good thing for the sake of the children, rather than because it is important to them. When we explain that it might even be helpful for children to have different donors because each child might have a different attitude to genetic connections, they relax and feel much more comfortable about a new donor for second or subsequent child. Our own two DI conceived children are from different donors. I also have a son from my first marriage, so three children by three different men, but they all behave like normal siblings (squabbling but loyal to each other) and it is not an issue in our house or many other DCN households.

    I too agree that love and deception are very poor bedfellows and likely to lead to complicated and hurtful outcomes.
    So actually lots to agree on here. Perhaps not so different after all?

  30. DC Mum says:

    Hi Olivia
    I hope that you are not going to take my response here as an insult in any way. It most certainly is not my intention but I have thought long and hard about how I am going to respond with my thoughts on this without offence.
    I first initial reaction to your lastest post is that should you have had 3 children to 3 different fathers anywhere but through a clinic ie. the way humans were meant to create babies and families, perhaps you would have been labelled promiscuous and irresponsible?
    Irresponsible to who? Is this irresponsible behaviour to society or to the children themselves?

    I was hoping to hear that the reason parents want children using the same donors is because they actually do realise the significance of genetic and biological relationship and perhaps are on the way to acknowledging other family members as being of some significance also.
    The fact that parents actually feel it is best for the children to be full siblings indicates that this is a very normal and human response before science steps in.

    Of course this doesn’t make you a bad mother and neither would the girl who conceived 3 children to 3 different men – though society would look down on her in most cases.
    So here I am back with my inner feelings that this is all far too complex for us humans. Impossible to create satisfactory families for each participant in the whole process including parents, donors and children.

    I am happy to hear your own children are comfortable at this present time with their conceptions and sound from your description very happy and satisfied young adults.

    I feel we should never lose sight of the fact that genetic and biological family are very significant for human beings. Thats what being human is and is how we are made.

    It will be very interesting watching out for the outcome of your campaign to let past donors know of the register and its importance…….even to update information and and health issues which may have developed in their lives. I hope it is very successful.

    Thank you for the opportunity to discuss our personal views here.

  31. oliviasview says:

    Hi Sue
    I am not in the least insulted by your comments about my having three children by three different men. It is a source of amusement to me and to the family.

    With regard to your comment –
    “I feel we should never lose sight of the fact that genetic and biological family are very significant for human beings. Thats what being human is and is how we are made.”

    My response to this is Yes, No and Maybe. Personally I think humans are more about emotional than genetic connection. We are relational creatures who seek connection with others. Blood relatives usually have a common history and emotional connection, but unknown blood relatives can also become invested with emotional significance if circumstances promote this. Babies become attached to their parents by emotional not genetic bonds. We often continue to have connections with siblings because we were raised together and have a shared history. I feel lucky to really like my brother and sister and although we are very different, there is enough in common for us to continue to seek each other out. My husband has a brother he has nothing in common with but continues to see occasionally because of shared family concerns and a common history. Neither brother seeks the other out. What is the role of genetics and biology there? In 2011 we became grandparents to our eldest son’s daughter, now aged five months. We are besotted with this baby. My husband has no genetic connection to her but adores her just the same. She is of course also the genetic grandchild of our son’s father (now dead) and the man I divorced many years ago. Should I feel differently about her because of that? I can’t help noticing that she looks like her mum, but this has no impact on the strength of my feeling about her. A colleague in the DCN office has three siblings. One is the child of both their parents and two are adopted. My colleague feels much closer to one of her adopted sibs than to the one she is genetically related to. What is the role of biology and genetics here? I ask (not that I think you or anyone else has the answer) because I don’t know…but for me relationships are more important than biology.

    BUT – my eldest son, father to said baby, is extraordinarily like his father in many ways, despite the fact that my ex-husband left the family when my son was one and they had no contact after my son was three until he was 22 and went looking for his father. They share an unusual hobby that my son didn’t even know about when he took it up.
    Our daughter is tall and Scandinavian looking, beautiful, but not resembling anyone in my family. She would dearly love to meet someone who shares her looks. I have often heard this said by donor conceived people and there does seem to be something about shared characteristics that is very powerful. But isn’t this just about our human need for emotional relationships and connectedness?

    I’ll finish with your own sentence that I can only agree with –
    “So here I am back with my inner feelings that this is all far too complex for us humans. Impossible to create satisfactory families for each participant in the whole process including parents, donors and children.” But we can try.

  32. oliviasview says:

    Why wouldn’t it be amusing? We are all comfortable and confident in our relationships with each other. The stereotype, which I deplore anyway, clearly doesn’t apply.

  33. Jennifer says:

    wow! what a debate! i don’t know where to start…. i just know that after ten years i have become just as secretive and deceptive and guilty and confused as anyone else in this community. and i am not even a donor. and yet ‘donating’ has the ability to completely consume my life. so much so that i try, as much as possible not to think about it at all. but, because i did put my hand up when the opportunity presented itself, i am now involved.

    i ended up simply skimming through all the arguments that support donor conception because i have heard them all before. over and over and over during the past decade of trying to wrap my head around around this issue whilst attempting to find a comfortable place for myself within it. there is no place withinin this entire insane conundrum where i would call myself comfortable.

    although people who support donor conception claim that there is no great significance to biological ties, people who donate are relinquishing parents. make no mistake about that.

    of course there is the tired argument that the person who changes the nappies is the real parent. and defenders of child donation always come up with several examples within their own biological family where members have drifted apart, are not connected, do not get on and throw this up as proof that genetic ties are of no great importance.

    similarly, single mothers by choice like to say that many children are conceived through one night stands and those kids are ok. i have also heard sperm donors make those agruments. in other words, to most people defending child trafficking, its ok because there are lots of kids in the world who had their genetic ties cut in some way.

    may i offer you this in reverse. if biological ties are of no great significance then why do people supporting the donor industry always support siblings becoming close (look at the donor sibling registry for example) but never, ever, promote a really close connection between donor and their donated offspring?

    where do you find stories where donor fathers or mothers have become closely connected to their biological (donated) offspring? it rarely happens, and when it does, it is generally because the adopting parent is no longer on the scene. you may, therefore, may find cases where a smbc has connected with her ‘donor’ in a special way, because the donor is probably single also…. or has a very tolerant and understanding partner.

    so, if you are so convinced that genetic ties are so un-important, then please explain to me why the donor and the adoptive parent have such difficulty connecting? why the the donor, after the intital euphoria of ‘reunion’ is then quietly disappeared so as not to offend the adoptive parent? and why forever after the euphoria of the reunion has died down, and loyalties have returned to the adoptive parents, the donor, if he/she is invited to a family occassion gets the uncomfortable feeling that they are very much the elephant in the room?

    if genetic ties were so unimportant, wouldn’t the donor be warmly welcomed by the adoptive parent? shouldn’t a firm friendship (at least) grow from this? after all the donor did offer the child ‘the gift of life’ and the parents ‘the right’ to parenthood? why then is the donor kept at a distance, like a dirty secret? indeed, even subsequent grandchildren, are kept at a respectable distance, because, again, the adoptive parent must have all the assurances in the world, and is offered plenty of bonding experiences to ensure that the grandchild knows who the ‘real’ grandfather is.

    and also, why do dc supporters think that child donation is ok provided that the donated person is offered access to their donor at 18? why do recipient parents choose to naively believe that a donor, after 18 years, will in fact come forward and make himself known to his donated offspring? why this blind faith in a promise made by a stranger, to a stranger, during youth? can it be because recipient parents and supporters of the dc industry have such a scant regard for biological ties that they are only prepared to offer a doner conceived person the faint hope of limited access to their genetic heritage through what is, in all probability, a false promise.

    one begins to wonder if most of the donor conceived people (and their parents) have decided to downplay the importance of genetic ties because they really have no choice. its their only form of defence.

    donation is indeed giving away ones child, and not only ones child, also ones grandchildren, the donations continue through the generations and the giving, once one has witnessed what one has given away, never ceases to be painful. not just for the donor, but also for those connected with the donor.

    all these conflicting feelings only come from one thing, the fact that there is a strong and deep biological connection between people with genetic links. look around at all the geanology sites, the geanology programs on tv. only donor concived people are not allowed to share these feelings because people like you, olivia, are in full denyial about them. you need to be in denial because you are also protecting yourself from the strength of these genetic connections and the pain and confusion that really owning them would cause you and the children you are trying to protect.

    i agree, its child trafficking, its giving away your children, its donating your children. its too complicated for humans to process because the emotions and feelings that donor conception provoke are too strong and painful and confusing for any us to deal with.

  34. oliviasview says:

    Welcome to the debate Jennifer. The emotive language you use and the extreme positions you take makes it hard for me to think that a conversation between you and I would be of value to either of us. Nevertheless, your views are welcome, no matter how much I disagree with them.

  35. walter says:

    Assertions such as “there is a strong and deep biological connection between people with genetic links” rely on a view of what is “natural”, or part of human nature, as against what is “unnatural” and, so the unspoken argument goes, therefore morally wrong. Such arguments were long deployed to support views about the “inherent ” inferiority of certain races; or the ill-treatment of (or worse) of gay and lesbian people. Philosophers have taught us that equating “unnatural practices” with immorality is better understood as an expression of political or cultural values.
    The significance of genetic connections in people’s lives is not what anthropologists call a human constant. (The desire of people to have children is a human constant.) Genetic connections may have more or less profound importance for people depending on the culture in which they live. Connection to or membership of a larger social unit than the “Western model family” may be more important to people in some cultures than exact parentage.
    But let us accept that in the culture of “Western liberal societies” in the 21st century, genetic connections are seen by many/most people as having some/lots of/enormous significance. They are clearly not of no significance at all in our culture. But I would argue that the extent of this significance has changed over time and will continue to change, just as views about sexuality have changed in our culture. We would now say that discrimination on the grounds of sexuality is immoral, and we encourage lesbian and gay people to assert their right to be treated equally. 100 years ago it was not so. A life as an openly gay person was impossible. If parents encouraged a son whom they recognised as gay to come out and lead an open life they would have been thought mad and/or despicably cruel and immoral since it would have condemned their son to the status of a social outcast.
    60 or 100 years ago it was thought that illegitimacy would confer a similar outcast status. So those who used donor insemination in the 1950’s and subsequent decades thought that it was best to preserve this as a secret from the child, and that that this was in the child’s best interests. (We might now say they were doing this to protect themselves as well.) Of course there has been a major cultural change about illegitimacy since then.
    The fact that in Western liberal society we now think that it is best for a donor conceived child to know of his or her origins is a symptom and result of a change in cultural and social attitudes. We do not expect the world to treat our child as a social outcast. But this is not necessarily so in other cultures. In some Mediterranean/Arab/Middle Eastern cultures acknowledging that a child is other than the genetic product of his or her parents (for whatever reason) does confer the status of social outcast.
    I recognise that some donor conceived people feel damaged, not because society treats them as outcasts, but because genetic connections are accorded an [arguable] degree of significance in our culture, and lack of those connections can damage a person’s self-worth by comparison with others who have those connections. Those feelings are real and undeniable. And I mean no disrespect to such individuals to say that such reactions are cultural responses, rather than feelings generated by immutable forces of “human nature”.
    Relations in families have also changed over time in our culture. Only a few generations ago many children had very distant relations with their parents. Couples produced children because there was no contraception. Parents had financial responsibility for children and the children had responsibility to maintain infirm parents. The notion that a profound love should be expected to develop between parents and children was not as prevalent as it is now. We now believe that a loving family is the best environment for a child in which to develop and that lack of it can be profoundly damaging. Genetic connections are no guarantee of love and there is plenty of love in non genetically connected families.
    I have no doubt that in 40 years time cultural and social attitudes will have changed profoundly again. People will look back at what we are doing and saying now and say “how could they have thought that was right”. But unless there is a major reversal of the trends of the past 200 years, our society will become more pluralistic and less culturally conformist. Unless scientific advances in reproduction overcome infertility, I don’t expect donor conception to have been abandoned, and not on a wave of revulsion generated by some of the arguments I have read in this blog, though by definition I could be wrong. I do think for instance that clinics will no longer be secret brokers between would-be parents and donors who don’t meet, and that it will seem normal for donors to play a (difficult to envisage now) part in children’s lives.
    I do believe that bringing up children is the most responsible thing that people can do in their lives – both in the sense that it carries heavy responsibilities and should not be undertaken “lightly, wantonly or unadvisedly”, and in the sense that it is noble and worthy. Unless we are geniuses whose art or science will stun the world, transmitting to another generation one’s values is about the only thing that may leave a lasting impression after we are gone. Our genes if we can transmit them (I couldn’t) may continue, but transmitting one’s values may do more for the world than simply transmitting one’s genes.

  36. Jennifer says:

    “the emotive language you use and the extreme positions you take”

    child bearing, donating, trading, selling, swapping, raising is a highly emotive issue. its just a joke when donors say they are afraid to connect with their donor offspring for fear of having financial demands made of them. it has nothing to do with finances and everything to do with emotions. as for my extreme positions…. in my opinion, donating children is an extreme thing to do. surely only vacuous people would disagree. i’m not surprised you played the “emotive language” and “extreme positions” cards against me. its just an attempt to put me down and shut me up. i do accept that attempts at constructive debate with you would be futile.

    • oliviasview says:

      Wouldn’t dream of trying to shut you up Jennifer. Not possible anyway I am sure. But I do worry about the anger you are carrying and the damage this is doing to you. Clearly whatever happened ten years ago – and you don’t say exactly what this was – has left an indelible mark. It can’t be good for anyone to harbour such poison. Meanwhile I’ll enjoy my happy family life and vacuuity thanks very much.

      • Marjorie Campbell says:

        I am disappointed that you use cynicism and sarcasm with anyone, much less someone injured and in pain. Having read this thread, it seems to me that, perhaps because you have a happy family, you are determined that any unhappiness in donor conceived situations is someone’s “fault” which could be corrected if they were more like you. That of course , is the heart of the fallacy but not something one who wants to normalize a behavior can really admit. The tobacco industry only featured healthy cowboy smokers and chic gal smokers because they wanted to normalize ( even glamorize) smoking. You do the same with commercialized, nonprofit conception, with yourself as the poster child of good experience and using criticism and fault finding as invalidation techniques. You essentially say “you wouldn’t get sick from smoking if you just smoke like I do!”.

  37. Jennifer says:

    @ walter “just as our views about sexuality have changed” so have women’s views about childbearing changed. increasingly women are opting not to have children at all. therefore i question your blanket statement. “the desire to have children is a human constant” – it’s not. your denial of the importance of genetic ties is clearly based on your own biases.

  38. DC Mum says:

    Thank you Jennifer.
    You make complete sense.

  39. oliviasview says:

    In response to Marjorie. I am sorry you think I was being cynical or sarcastic. I suppose the last sentence could be read that way but my concern for Jennifer is real. I hope she is able to find some way to look after herself and lessen her pain.
    I really don’t set myself up as a ‘poster girl’ for anything. Like everyone else I am far from perfect. I know that I am very lucky to have a loving family and to have a very fulfilling job helping support couples and individuals think about the issues involved in creating a family by donor conception. I see DC Network as working from a philosophy of principled pragmatism. Donor conception is not going to go away so we are raising awareness in the industry and with would-be parents and donors about the importance of putting the needs of donor conceived people first. We do not deny the importance of genetic connections…our recognition of them in fact is what drives much of what we do. We just do not recognise donors as parents, as donors do not recognise themselves as such. I acknowledge that this is at odds with those offspring and others who see things differently, but if we are to continue this conversation, let’s keep things polite and I promise no more sarcasm.

  40. DC Mum says:

    ” I know that I am very lucky to have a loving family and to have a very fulfilling job helping support couples and individuals think about the issues involved in creating a family by donor conception. I see DC Network as working from a philosophy of principled pragmatism. Donor conception is not going to go away so we are raising awareness in the industry and with would-be parents and donors about the importance of putting the needs of donor conceived people first. We do not deny the importance of genetic connections.”

    Yes you are lucky and so am I.
    However last I heard the importance of genetic connections was “amusing” to you.
    Will the DC network council would be donors and parents on the pain and complications that donor conception is very likely to cause? Or more likely to say this is a minority?

  41. oliviasview says:

    What is amusing are the circumstances within my own family…not genetic connections in general. Our experience over 19 years is that, in general, donor conception does not cause pain and complications. This is not to deny that it has done for some.

  42. DC Mum says:

    Then why are so many dc people looking for their genetic families and why are there so many blogs? Why are they crying out to know the other half of themselves? Why are dc people who are now reaching adulthood crying out that their human rights were taken from them at conception? Only now are they gaining the confidence to speak out and realising that they indeed need to be acknowledged and given the same rights as every other human being on the planet earth.
    Perhaps you are talking about those that haven’t been informed of their conception, or their numbers are being taken into account as being ‘ok’ with it all?
    Do you tell perspective parents about this? Give them blog sites to look at from dc people?
    From my experience and the people I have come into contact with, donor conception has caused a huge amount of pain and complications for most involved. Eventually that is.
    Happy childhoods are usual though, I believe, when all that really matters is having parents who love you unconditionally and your present needs are provided for, and you are just happy being a kid in the here and now.
    I’m thinking that possibly you are talking from a parents point of view. In that respect I can see much less complications, however do you also follow up to see how parents are coping with their childrens pain when this occurs later in life? I know many dc people who very carefully navigate around their parents out of fear of causing their parents pain. Its not nice to see pain in your children no matter what the age.
    Is it possible not everyone has been taken into account during your 19 yrs?

  43. oliviasview says:

    Of course it is possible that we have not taken everyone into account and I am aware of children wanting to protect parents from pain and distress…in many areas of life, not just DC.
    But because DCN has been around for nineteen years we know many families with adult children and mostly they are doing well.
    We do not believe in protecting prospective parents from difficult feelings so we do encourage them to look at internet sites where they will hear the pain of those who believe that donor conception has been damaging for them. If you read some of my earlier blogs you will come across posts, like The Importance of Listening, that encourages parents and would-be parents to listen to ALL adoptees and DC adults, no matter how painful that may be for them.
    You will of course realise that those DC adults who are comfortable with their situation feel little need to write about it – they are just getting on with their lives – leaving the blogs and cyber-space generally to those who feel it has damaged their lives. Understandably they have loud voices and so appear to be the dominant discourse. I would not dream of attempting to diminish or trivialise their pain. It is obviously real and I wish them well in finding ways to lessen it, but just because they have the dominant public voice does not mean that their situation is the prevailing one.

  44. rachelp says:

    Regarding Walter’s comment: “I recognise that some donor conceived people feel damaged, not because society treats them as outcasts, but because genetic connections are accorded an [arguable] degree of significance in our culture, and lack of those connections can damage a person’s self-worth by comparison with others who have those connections. Those feelings are real and undeniable. And I mean no disrespect to such individuals to say that such reactions are cultural responses, rather than feelings generated by immutable forces of “human nature”.”

    I do not agree that DC people feel diminished due to the culture they find themselves in. Humans beings make sense of their experiences by telling stories. Some time ago I read a book which argued that those stories must have a beginning, a middle and an end in order to be psychologically satisfying. DC people’s stories have a middle and an end but no beginning. As a DC person I have a great big hole where my personal and family history should be. I feel, for want of a better word, incomplete. It gnaws at me, it unsettles me, I feel I can’t truly rest until I know where I came from.

    Furthermore, I’m so, so tired of people telling me how I should I feel about my conception, that I should consider the father who raised me my “real” father, and that position being supported by the law in this country (the UK). It is paternalistic and it is patronising. As a DC person so often I feel like I’m being treated as a child instead of an adult. Let DC people decide for themselves what their biological and social fathers mean to them.

    My donor IS a father to me, no matter how inconvenient some find that fact. He didn’t just donate “the potential for life”, he donated half of me. Therefore there is no doubt in my mind that he gave me away.

    And for the record my DC half-brother was abused by his social dad.

    • oliviasview says:

      Hi Rachel
      Although I find it very hard to understand when you talk about your donor having ‘given you away’ (after all, he did not know his donation would result in you), neither Walter nor I would EVER seek to deny your or any other DC adults feelings about their beginnings. Of course DC people are the only ones who can decide what their ‘biological and social fathers mean to them’.

  45. Maddymoo says:

    I have read the above exchange of views with interest. I like others writing here am a donor recipient, in bief we are the recipients of a number of donor embryos, and are now fortunate enough to be the parents of a toddler. For the record we are based in the UK and are in fact members of the DC network (spearheaded by Olivia), whilst I take on board many of the comments above I think it is only fair to put forward the perspective of the many recipient families here in the UK.
    My husband and I are now fortunate enough to be parents, but this has followed years and years of heartbreak and desperation to get to this point, I know I am not alone in this sentiment. Donor conception has for us given us the chance and dream of being a family. Yes our child is not genetically relted to us, but as an approved adopter I am of the opinion ( and it is just that, my opinion) that genetics are just one part of who we are. Family relationships and bonds, whilst not replacing the importance of the genetic link hold an important and essential key to how we view the world and who we become.
    We have every intention of sharing our child’s conception story, and in fact have already started with a simple home made picture book. We have also attended a telling and talking session run by the DC network – a fantastic opportunity to meet others in a similar situation, reflect on what brought us to this point and also look to the future. As already mentioned above the UK does seem to be advanced in both its clinical practices as well as its resources for those using donor conception. I n fact in our T and T session a couple had travelled from Sweden specifically for this course as there was nothing similar available closer to home. We have friends who also have DC children, met through the network as well as through our fertility clinic. Together we support each other through what is happening now, and I believe we will be there for each other in the future, our children are already friends.
    In response to any criticism of clinics, we were treated by a UK clinic which statistically has been at the top of the league tables for a number of years, a clinic which has faced some negative media coverage in recent years. However, in regard to the donor side of our treatment (or for the record all levels of treatment) the clinic could not be faulted. We had our own member of staff who dealt specifically with donor conception, we were given some details about our donors, and are aware that both donors have written a letter which is part of our file at the clinic. Our donors were not pressured into donating, they did not do it for money and were not young or vulnerable. They are in fact a married couple with excess embryos from previous treatment. To be able to donate they went through a serries of counselling sessions, and had to be assessed externally to donate. Their reason for donating was simple, they didn’t want anymore children themselves but could not let their embryos perish.
    I, like other donor recipient families cannot predict what the future holds for us or our child’s understanding of who they are or where they come from. But with a supportive environment we, as a family, will do our best to support our child (hopefully children) through their childhood and into adulthood. I can only hope that our children grow up with a self assured sense of self that is so evident in Olivia’s family.

  46. marilynn says:

    “What do you think about men who actually do give away their sperm with no money changing hands at all? This happens often in UK clinics and privately all the time. They say they do it to help others become parents. They give away one ingredient in the potential for life, not actual children.”

    What do I think about them? I think their hearts are in the right place. Sadly the fact that they don’t sell their sperm does not mean that their sperm is not still being sold. There is, as you know, still money exchanging hands and it is still treated as a product for sale. I do not think that giving away ones sperm is the same as giving away ones children. I agree that sperm is the potential for life but it is not actual children.

    I don’t think that a man who donates his sperm for research purposes is giving away his children because the donor has not consented to allow his sperm to be used to create offspring that he will not know or raise. I do think that a man who donates his sperm for reproductive purposes is giving away his offspring because he specifically agrees to let it be used for reproduction and specifically agrees not to seek contact with his offspring. I’ll put it this way if a man wants to be involved in the lives of his offspring he does not donate his sperm for reproductive purposes. The fact that a man does donate sperm for reproductive purposes means that he wants to create offspring that he does not intend to know or raise. That man’s offspring have to deal with knowing they were deliberately created by a man who did not want to know them and did not want the rest of his family to know about them. Even if that man was not paid, knowing that they were created by a person that is not interested in knowing them has the potential to hurt their feelings at least. When all around them they see people caring about the children they create they are likely going to wonder why they don’t deserve to their biological parent’s concern or interest. Why would they care so little about them as to give them away to strangers without making sure that they were going to be safe and well cared for?

  47. DC Mum says:

    @ Marilynn: I totally agree – and why are people allowed to receive them without thorough investigation as in adoption, and why wouldnt’t the person who was created through this act wonder why their best interests were trumped by a people wanting to create a family simply because of a desire. And why doesn’t the law provide for them in making sure that their birth certificates are not falsified to say they are someone they in fact are not.
    Lots of why’s but no-one listens

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