Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Dark Side of Donor Conception in South Australia.

The Dark Side of Donor Conception in South Australia.

While there is often great joy for a couple suffering the pain of infertility when they are finally able to conceive a child through the use of donated gametes, it can also damage the emotional wellbeing of this child with a pain and sense of loss that will continue to linger on.
Recent media reports have focused on proposed legislative changes to assisted reproductive practices in respect to the prohibition of the use of anonymous sperm or egg donors. These reports often convey the views of the clinics providing these services, recipient parents and the donors who provide their gametes. Why do they not show the views of the child that has been created insuch a manner? Do their views not count? Are they not the ones that are the most affected? These children do not stay children for long and there arehundreds in South Australia that are well in their 20's and 30's that have had a lifetime to form their own views on how their conception has affected them. But no one has been asking them about current practices and the archaic legislation that surrounds it. Anonymous donation is still practiced in this state, yet all current literature, international law, and national and state governing bodies all recommend that anonymous donation be prohibited and that all donors should be identifiable and contactable. This is viewed as being in the best interests ofthe child from both a physical and mental health aspect. South Australia's own reproductive technology act states that the welfare of the child is paramount, but it also provides protection for a donor's anonymity. These two statements in the legislation are mutually exclusive.
Australia is a signatory on the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child which states that every child has the right to their identity,including nationality, name and family relations. These rights are currently being ignored under anonymous donation practices.
The National Health and Medical Research Council in their guidelines on reproductive technology has recommended that all donors be identifiable and that recipient parents understand the significance of the biological connection between the child and their donor.
Our own South Australian Council for Reproductive Technologies has also recommended that all donor offspring have access to identifying information on their donor.
One of the main factors that infertile couples state for using donor gametesis that they want the child to at least be genetically related to one of them. This need for a biological connection is immense and is well supported by the clinics and literature. Yet the practice of anonymous donation is hypocritical in that it totally erases the biological connection between the offspring and donor. The need for this connection is still there, the ability to access it has been destroyed. The great loss of identity, heritage, family health history, and connection to biological relations both to the donor and siblings is something that does not go away. These emotional, health and social issues that affect these offspring have often been compared to those experienced by adopted children. Certainly from one aspect, the donor offspring has been adopted by the infertile partner. The rights of adopted children to have their true identity and knowledge of their family has been recognised by law. Is this not a discrimminatory practice that is occuring against donor offspring? By treating infertility in this current manner we are transferring the pain associated with it to the next and subsequent generations.
So why do our clinics still follow practices that contradict all current recommendations and that also tramples on our international human rights obligations? Because they are protected under current outdated legislation. Their arguement that they will lose donors is based on unsupported fear, especially when this has not been the case in other countries such as New Zealand that have been following identifiable donor practices for several years. Surely then if we are to truely uphold the rights of the children, then we must only recruit those donors that are willing to be identified. If the clinics have to change their recruiting demographic and there is a drop in donor numbers, then this is a far better outcome for the child who will otherwise have to live with the burden of an unjust system and a sense of loss. When the concept of family and everything that it entails is the most dear thing that we hold to our heart, why do we deny the Donated Generation their family in its entirety? We say that blood is thicker than water, but thanks to the practice of anonymity I don't know whose blood flows through my veins.

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