Back in January I wrote about the very serious business of choosing a donor and how some clinics are restricting the information about donors that they are giving to would-be parents prior to treatment. This seems to happen particularly with egg donation. Yesterday BioNews published a Commentary written by Walter and Marilyn Crawshaw on just this topic http://www.bionews.org.uk/page_130217.asp
And it’s not straightforward. Whilst I have personally never come across anyone who wants to know which celebrity their donor might resemble, it appears that something of the ‘meat market’ American culture is entering the minds of some potential recipients of donor eggs or sperm. One clinic has reported recipients wanting to know the educational level of the donor’s siblings as well as the donor themselves and would-be parents discriminating against a donor because of their spelling and grammar. This is when they have had sight of pen portraits and goodwill messages written by donors prior to treatment. As someone who values literacy and good spelling I find this last one really difficult because I think I could have been one of these people. As it was, Walter and I had no choice whatsoever about our donors and maybe that is just as well. On the other hand, if knowing something about the donor helps recipients feel comfortable about welcoming a donor conceived child into their family and supports them in sharing that information with their child as s/he grows up, then shouldn’t they be able to have all non-identifying information before having this person’s genes as part of their family make-up?
What seems to be needed is much more attention, interest and oversight paid to the collection and recording of donor information by clinic staff. There are examples of some very good practice in clinics where a counsellor will see donors to make sure that they understand all the implications of what they are doing. They can also help them complete the pen-portrait and goodwill message with high quality but truthful information that will be helpful to recipients in the short term and the child as they grow up, but without identifying themselves or using the sort of language that appears to be attracting people to choose them over someone else. There is also the possibility at this stage of helping correct less than perfect grammar and spelling thus removing a bias that reflects more on class than on genetically inherited characteristics.
The interests of everyone in the donor triangle would be served if there was consistency between clinics about the way in which donor information was obtained, recorded and transmitted to would-be recipients. And as with many things, a lot relies on HOW this is done as much as the procedures in place. Those of us who have thought a lot about this would be delighted to assist the HFEA in drawing up guidelines and templates to assist all clinics in consistently fulfilling their eight year old requirements that recipients should receive ALL non-identifying information about donors prior to treatment. We await their call.
Link here to my January blog on this topic https://oliviasview.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/why-are-some-clinics-restricting-information-about-donors/