DNA testing is changing the world

It hasn’t hit the mainstream yet but I can tell you that the donor conception world is changing very fast…and it is the potential for finding genetic relatives through DNA testing that is driving the change.  DC Network is being approached for advice by families who have taken tests like 23andMe and then been contacted by a second cousin who could almost certainly name the donor: what now, they ask?   Parents of DC adults are realising that their ‘children’ could easily do a test and discover factors that would reveal that one of their parents could not possibly be genetically related to them.  Some parents are in very complicated personal situations where revelation of donor conception is likely to have far reaching consequences but they nevertheless believe that planned honesty is better than an accidental bomb exploding.   The DC adults who are most vociferously against donor conception have all had DNA tests done.  Some have found close genetic relatives and relationships are being established and/or struggled with.   The next group – those who are curious but not against the practice – are beginning to take tests.   There are already services – some free, some not, to help DC adults do the detective work that is often necessary in addition to DNA testing.  Our daughter is taking advantage of one of these.

Those DC people conceived after 2005 in the UK will have the right to have information about their donor from 2023 when the first of this cohort become 18, but in the intervening years there are many DC adults without this right and it cannot be long before it is almost standard practice to do a DNA test.  And then there are those who have been conceived abroad.  In the vast majority of cases their donor will have been anonymous but for how long, with data bases of DNA growing at such a fast rate.

The cat is out of the bag.  Donors are no longer anonymous.  Parents MUST tell and be ready to support their children.  There is no going back.

A good read for those wanting to understand about the etiquette of approaching donors or half-siblings is Finding Our Families by Wendy Kramer (of DSR fame) and Naomi Cahn.

Update at 29.8.16  Here’s an interesting read in G2 in The Guardian today, although the on-line article is much more in-depth and worthwhile.  It’s by someone who is both a neurologist and a journalist, with an interest in identity issues. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/aug/29/sperm-donor-deceivers-dream-turns-nightmare


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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7 Responses to DNA testing is changing the world

  1. polly says:


  2. Pingback: DNA testing and the changes it brings | Related Topics

  3. Joanne Lloyd says:

    This is my situation exactly. Having been encouraged by my father to take an interest in his family tree, last year, 32 years after his death, I did a DNA test to find out if my siblings and I did indeed have Romany gypsy heritage. A timebomb exploded. To cut a very long story short, my father was unable to have children after he suffered testicular cancer before he was married. We were told.. at the ages of 60, 58 and 54 that my parents adopted my brother, my Mother had my sister as a “private arrangement with a family friend” and me??? As my mother put it ” You are an A.I. child from Manchester Joanne” My sister and I share a Mum. But that’s it. My Mum has been unable to tell me anything at all other than I was conceived at a “private consulting room” in Manchester.My Ancestry DNA test indicates that my biological father was in fact of Jewish ethnicity. I know that a fertility clinic was set up by Dr Bernard Sandler at the Manchester Jewish hospital in the 1940’s and that Dr Sandler did have his own private consulting rooms in Manchester until the 1980’s…. but have no idea if that is where I ” come from”…. I was born with medical problems and a probable chromosone deletion which could be hereditary… so it feels pretty important to try to trace my biological father and any half siblings I have. But where you start when you know virtually nothing is a big big problem. To say I am grief stricken, angry and unhappy to have had this hidden for so long is an understatement….

    • oliviasview says:

      Joanne, my heart goes out to you…and your brother and sister who must too be reeling following these revelations. I wonder if you have registered with the Donor Conceived Register http://www.donorconceivedregister.org.uk This is a way of potentially making contact with half-siblings or, less likely, your donor and also with other donor conceived adults seeking answers to questions about their genetic heredity. There are also several Facebook groups for donor conceived adults and through them you are likely to find links to the ‘detective’ services I alluded to in my blog.
      I wish you all the luck in the world in finding answers to your questions. In the meantime do take care of yourself. The shock and grief of a discovery like this cannot be underestimated. DNA testing is indeed a time bomb waiting to explode in very many families.

  4. gsmwc02 says:

    “The cat is out of the bag. Donors are no longer anonymous. Parents MUST tell and be ready to support their children. There is no going back.”

    I’ve been saying this for a while that it’s become almost impossible today for parents to keep their child’s donor conception or adoption secret. With the Internet and DNA testing one way or another a child will find out. Better be honest up front rather than there be ugly fallout.

    Anonymity in third party reproduction really doesn’t exist so you might as well make all donations open.

  5. Liz says:

    DNA testing makes it easy to discover that a child is not biologically related to a parent. However, it does not necessarily make it easy to find a genetic donor.

    I’m under the impression that the majority of people who are members with Donor Sibling Registry have not been able to identify a donor.

    Parents have to be prepared that if they choose anonymous donation for embryos, eggs or sperm — that may mean that the child is unable to find the genetic donor.

    Tests cost money, many people will not take a DNA test, and those that do may not register their information for others to find. There additional worries about privacy/medical/insurance issues.

    • oliviasview says:

      A sane and sensible cautionary note Liz. I don’t think everyone, or actually that many people yet, on the DSR have actually taken DNA tests. This seems to be mainly limited to DC adults and vast majority of DSR registrants are parents with young children. I think choosing an anonymous donor – that is, making a deliberate choice for the donor to be anonymous – is a risky thing to do these days. The chances of being found are so much greater than they were just a very few years ago…and getting greater by the day.

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