Walter went to Erlangen, near Nuremberg last weekend to take part in an important event in the German donor conception world. This was a two day conference organised jointly by the Spermbank of Erlangen and Petra Thorn, a counsellor who specialises in supporting donor families and long time friend of DC Network. The event also provided the first public outing for the newly formed parent support group DI-Netz (www.di-netz.de). Several parents from this group visited DC Network last year and DCN has been privileged to support them as they established their organisation. Now nine months old they have come a long way in a very short time. They have over 60 members, a great website, leaflets, agreed campaign policies and a range of publications for sale. Walter reported that there was a real sense of enthusiasm and achievement. One of the first publications under their own imprint is a translation of DCN’s Telling and Talking 0-7 booklet. I was delighted to receive several copies as a present, all tied up in pink ribbon. Apparently 15 copies were sold at the conference.
The conference was attended by over 100 people including clinicians, counsellors, lawyers, parents and intending parents and donor conceived people. Walter made a presentation covering the UK’s legal framework (much envied by the Germans), the HFEA and DC Network. Although the German public health care system is one of the best in the world, the area of donor conception is fraught with uncertainties about the legal rights and and obligations of parents, sperm donors and donor conceived people. There are no provisions conferring legal parenthood on recipient parents, nor is there a central register, records simply being held by individual clinics. Egg donation is illegal in Germany and Walter heard a shocking story about the offices of a counsellor and of a clinic suspected of referring women to clinics abroad, being raided by the police. Records were removed and the patients concerned were interviewed. The outcome of this action is as yet unknown. It is hard to understand why egg donation should be treated so very differently to sperm donation but I gather that it is something to do with the separation of the genetic from the gestating mother (and heavily influenced by the Catholic church). Germany shares this ban on egg donation with Austria and Switzerland, although the two latter countries have ended anonymous donation for sperm donors, whilst the situation regarding information about donors being identifiable in Germany remains anomalous. Offspring from sperm donation in all three of these countries have banded together in the organisation SpenderKinder http://www.spenderkinder.de/english/ and are voluble in claiming their right to know about their donors. Both parents and offspring have a lot to campaign about in Germany.
DI-Netz, led by Claudia Bruegge and her husband Ulrich Simon, is a young and lively organisation and I know DCN will be glad to learn from their fresh approach. They have already pipped DCN to the post with the production of a book for children aged 7 – 11. DCN’s book for this age group will be published sometime in 2014, but the organisation looks forward to exploring the translation of the German detective story with a view to having more than one than one resource available for children in this age band.
Next month Walter and I go to Brussels to meet up with the newly forming parent group there. They too face many challenges, not least of all the massive hostility of the fertility doctors to openness as well as any thought of ending anonymity for donors.
For a long time DC Network has been the only parent led organisation for donor conception families in Europe. It is fantastic that other groups of parents are now feeling able to speak out. DCN looks forward to welcoming parents from other countries into this growing movement of those who are comfortable with the way we have created our families and who value open and honest relationships with our children.