Fresh back from a week in the stormy rather than sunny Algarve, I dived into helping on the DC Network stand at the Fertility Show and within minutes was, as usual, overwhelmed by the crass commercialisation of the baby-making industry and the vital role DCN has in being a haven from a world where dollars rule and donor conceived children are commodities rather than people. Along with correcting misinformation about the availability of egg donors in the UK, we spent a lot of time helping would-be recipients of donated eggs and sperm take the longer view of any child they might conceive. In the general world of people wishing to become parents, those requiring donated gametes need to be able to think about something that no-one else, not even those using straight IVF need to do, and that is what their children might think and feel about the way they were conceived as they grow up. It is almost impossible for anyone to put themselves in that position – particularly when the possibility of even being pregnant still feels so far away – but the need comes because the decisions made by would-be parents will (to a greater or lesser extent) have an impact on their children many years hence. Thus, we put the hard questions. If you choose egg donation in Spain because, as one woman explained to me, she looks Spanish and speaks the language, how are you going to explain to your child down the line that there is only the very remotest chance (through DNA testing) that they will ever be able to know who their donor is and that they can only know the woman’s height, eye colour and blood group (not even if she actually is Spanish) but that if you had had treatment in the UK you could have had lots more information and they could choose to contact they donor at 18 if they wanted to do so. One route closes doors and the other leaves them open. Conveyed kindly and supportively this information opens many peoples eyes to a scenario they have never been presented with before and at the very least leaves them with lots more to think about.
Being respectful. gentle and supportive to people whilst presenting them with information they may find difficult to hear is something DC Network prides itself on. On catching up with several people who had been present at the Progress Educational Trust’s Ten Years Since the End of Donor Anonymity event earlier in the week, it sounds as if the donor conceived adult who spoke had not learned that the way to get others to take you seriously and listen to the hard things you have to say, is by respecting them and understanding something of their point of view. An aggressive style of presenting, contempt for the regulator and researchers in the field and downright rudeness to other panellists made it easy for those listening to dismiss the perspective of donor conceived adults who do feel that they have lost out badly as lunatic fringe, rather than people with an important message to convey. What a wasted opportunity with such a captive audience.
In January I will be speaking to the British Fertility Society about Long-term Outcomes for Donor Conceived Adults. I am of course not the right person to be doing this. It should be someone who has been donor conceived but I suspect I have been asked because they know that I will not have the very polarised views and intimidating style that unfortunately many people have come to associate with donor conceived adults who are active on the internet. I won’t let them off the hook of course but I will be presenting a much more mixed picture. If only more donor conceived people with a broader range of views would make their feelings known publicly, but I know from talking with many that a. they don’t feel the need as most are comfortable with who they are and b. they fear becoming a target for those DC adults who are strongly against donor conception. How sad is that.