Former donors: your re-registration as identifiable is needed

At last, an article about a donor who has chosen to re-register as identifiable to people he has helped create!  Published on-line on Friday and in The Guardian Family section on Saturday, ‘Chris Whitman’ (pseudonym) describes how in 1991/2 he was in need of extra money and became a regular sperm donor at a S.London clinic and, we learn later in the article, at a Harley Street clinic when he had reached the donation limit imposed at the first one.   Working and earning again he put donating behind him for many years but becoming a father made him dimly conscious of the consequences of his earlier actions.  Having his own children also caused him to reflect on his relationship with his own father and the similarities between them.  He thought about what it would be like to grow up with virtually no knowledge of one biological parent. It was not, however, until his marriage had broken down that he made the decision, following hearing a radio report about a donor register, to contact the HFEA about the possibility of knowing more about the children he had helped create.  He discovered that thanks to having donated at two clinics, a total of 34 children, 20 girls and 14 boys, were attributable to him, 16 born in 1993 alone.

No longer being married to someone who did not like the idea of him having been a sperm donor gave ‘Chris’ the freedom to choose to make himself available to these young people, should they choose to look for him and apparently one now has!

As the article points out, only 126 donors (both sperm and egg) from the pre-2005 era when all donors had to be anonymous, have chosen to re-register as identifiable.  Thousands of men and some hundreds of women must have donated between 1991 and April 2005 so this is a disappointingly low fraction of the total, but as there has been NO national publicity about the possibility of doing so, the low take-up is hardly surprising.

Comments following on-line articles are often ignorant.  So many were removed as ‘not meeting community standards’ after this one that I can only assume that, sadly, even Guardian’s readers are not above abusing their on line anonymity to jibe, jeer and deride this man’s very honest and courageous decision.  If only there were more like him.

Not all donor conceived adults will want to trace the person or persons who helped to bring them about.  But for those for whom this is important, re-registration with the HFEA is the first step to helping someone complete a picture of him or herself  by understanding a little more about the person who contributed their DNA to help make them.  DC adults are rarely looking for another parent or even a relationship – certainly not for money – but are curious about the person whose genes have provided the blue-print to be modified by the epigenetics of environment and upbringing to make them who they are.  Interestingly, the young donor conceived man I had lunch with yesterday said that if it were possible he would like to trace his donor (he didn’t know about the possibility of re-registration) but that he felt much more circumspect about the prospect of half-siblings, the existence of whom he found a little weird.  Although old enough, he has not enquired of the HFEA about the number of half-siblings he has…but he might well contact them now to see if his donor is amongst the elite 126.  As the offspring of a solo mum, he is comfortable and confident about his beginnings but curious as to what his donor might have contributed to his personality and skill sets.  All I can say is that he is one of the most mature and balanced 18 year olds I have ever met.  I know he has a great mum.  I suspect his donor must have been a lovely man too.


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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3 Responses to Former donors: your re-registration as identifiable is needed

  1. marilynn says:

    Olivia how do you feel personally about the social pressure all people face when married to place their spouse on a pedestal and almost forsake offspring that they created with other people? This idea that his wife would be so domineering as to discourage him from pursuing information about her own child’ren’s paternal siblings is just so small minded to me. It’s so unfortunate that people have this idea that the only children worth paying attention to are those of your current spouse is just so rude.

    I find the phrase “his own children” particularly hard to swallow because they are nonetheless his own offspring and the children he chose to raise would be well within their rights to refer to his other children as their own paternal siblings. I think labeling some of his offspring as “his own” and others as “not his own” is not really factual since a person’s offspring is always their own and nobody else but the other parent would be telling the truth if they called another person’s offspring “their own”

    I think it is real important for people who donated not to give the impression that the children they raised are somehow special and more deserving of their attention than the ones they did not raise. I’m concerned that minors might base their whole sense of self worth on whether or not they are the offspring of two bio parents who love one another. What if they only have value if they pretend to be the offspring of a bio parent and an unrelated partner who are in love? What if who they actually are is unworthy of love because there was no love between the bio parents. Too much of a head trip. I think all people are equally worthy of love and attention.

    • gsmwc02 says:

      The children are getting love from their parents who raised them. Is non biological parent love not as good or mean as much as biological parent love? I don’t think so.

  2. oliviasview says:

    ‘His own’ children are those he had with a (at the time anyway) loved partner. They are the offspring of this union. Children he helped to create as a sperm donor were not as the result of a loving relationship. They came into being because (in the case of heterosexual couples) the loving, but infertile, relationship of others. It’s different.
    This man had been a sperm donor prior to meeting his wife. I think it is absolutely within the bounds of ‘normal’ (whatever that is) for a woman to feel threatened by the idea that there are children out there who might, in her eyes, interfere with family life in the future. It’s not very generous, but it is understandable. This is why, these days in the UK, donors are encouraged to talk to their partners before they donate so make sure that they are on board. Guidelines are currently being developed to help former donors talk with their partner, family and own children.

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