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.