Anonymity for donors: apparently still a contentious issue

Returned from New York on Tuesday having had a wonderful time in the city and with Zannah, who is thriving.  Walter, who never goes anywhere without his iPad, drew my attention on Monday to an article in Bio News by an egg donation dad-to-be that had some very peculiar things to say about donors and donor conception.  Being away from the fray (I don’t take electronic devices abroad) I didn’t take much notice, but on getting home I returned to the item and couldn’t believe what I was reading.  Have a look for yourself at

I started blogging a response but then wondered if Bio News would like to use it.  It turns out they are happy to publish so that means that I can’t give you my response here, but either watch out for Bio News on Monday/Tuesday next week (and everyone with a stake in donor conception should subscribe: it’s FREE) and I’ll link to it next week.

The lead commentary in Bio News this week is equally depressing.  Sandy Starr gives us the results of an on-line poll that was conducted by the organisation following the three very successful events they ran about donor conception from the perspective of donors, recipients and offspring.  The questions asked were all apparently culled from the feedback sheets completed by the participant audience following each event.  There were 802 responses (presumably to the whole poll rather than individual questions).  Who these people are is a fascinating but unanswered question.   I can only assume that given the source of the poll they are audience members and/or those involved in the assisted reproduction/bio-ethics community rather than genuine ‘members of the public’.  And this makes the results even more depressing as I would hope that such people would recognise the priority that should be given to the needs of donor conceived people.  But no, 56 per cent of those who responded to the question, ‘Should anonymous egg and sperm donation be allowed in the UK?’ said Yes it should be allowed.  Given that identifiable donors have been a mandatory part of donation in the UK for eight years now, this is a very worrying response from people I would have hoped would know better.  Does this still indicate a supply rather than a welfare driven focus from people in the industry?  A lot more work to do here.

The question, ‘Should it be compulsory for all donor-conceived people to be told they are donor conceived?” divided respondents down the middle with 52 per cent thinking that it should be compulsory for donor conceived people to be told and 48 per cent believing that it should not be compulsory.  Of those who said it should be compulsory 86 per cent said that it was the responsibility of the donor conceived person’s parents to do this job, but with the possibility of voting for more than one option, a confusing 53 per cent voted for details to be on the birth certificate, 27 per cent said it should be the responsibility of the HFEA and 12 per cent opted for ‘a state representative/department’ .

There were further questions about whether or not respondents would be willing to donate anonymously or identifiably.  I urge you to read the article for the detail of responses but I was less surprised than Sandy Starr seemed to be by the quarter of respondents who said they would not consider donating under any circumstances.  Donating eggs, sperm or embryos is a very BIG thing to do.  It is not nothing; eggs or sperm are not just spare cells that get thrown away with every period or ejaculation.  They are part of the means for creating life and I have as much respect for those who have thought about it and decided it is not for them as I have for those who decide that this is a responsibility they feel able to take on.

Keep up the good work Bio News.  I might not like everything that appears on your pages but you do keep me thinking (and writing).

Sandy Starr’s article can be seen here


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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6 Responses to Anonymity for donors: apparently still a contentious issue

  1. Kriss Fearon says:

    I have commented on there as you probably saw. An entire article saying not to forget the needs of the donor, which doesn’t explain how the author has found out what donors think and responded to it – in all its complexity.

    I have the horrible feeling I’m becoming one of those people who posts morally indignant replies online at 3am!

  2. Tracey says:

    I appreciate the responses left at 3am 🙂 and also eagerly await your response next week Olivia!

    Thank goodness there are people who do respond

  3. Bev says:

    Thanks for this Olivia, I have left a comment too – but only at 12.38am!

  4. Andrea Powell says:

    Hey Olivia – looking forward to reading your response to this. I’ve also commented, though I feel this person is well entrenched in his view unfortunately.

  5. oliviasview says:

    I think you are right Andrea…but I couldn’t let it go unchallenged.

    • Andrea Powell says:

      I have just read your response. Well done – I think it pretty much covers everything!

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