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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Response to Donor Egg Story

This is a letter that I wrote in response to a donor egg story and which was published in the Dec/Jan issue of Adelaide's Child.

Jacqueline Tomlins in her story Life Cycles on egg donation fails to mention any effects that being donor conceived has on the child and how their rights are being infringed upon. Being a donor conceived person myself it is always frustrating when reading these stories, however heart felt they may be that they never take in the perspective of the person that really matters, that is the child.

Her story mentions that donors are required to remain anonymous and that the legal issues are governed by the South Australian Council for ReproductiveTechnologies. The SACRT is only an advisory council, the legal issues are actually governed by the Reproductive Technologies Act. The SACRT has however recognised the problem associated with anonymous donations and has strongly recommended that anonymous donations cease. This is also in line with theNational Health and Medical Research Council's stand on the issue. Our own legislation does allow for anonymity yet it also states the the welfare of the child is paramount. These two factors are mutually exclusive.

In addition the practice of donor conception contravenes the UN Conventions of the Rights of the Child to which Australia is a signatory. Article 7 states that a child has the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents. Given that less than 30% of children are even told about their conception (Monash report) and the fact that in SA, offspring are not entitled to identifying information about their donor, many will never know who their genetic father/mother really is. Article 8 states that the child has a right to his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations. All of these are stripped from a child as a process of donor conception.

The main premise of using donor conception over adoption is that both the infertile couple and the clinics all recognise the importance of at least one of them being genetically related to their child. This is a double standard in that the other genetic connection is now viewed as being disposable. It is both morally and ethically wrong to choose on behalf of the child which biological connection will remain and which will be thrown away as they are equally both important. Not only does it remove a biological father/mother from the child it also removes any siblings. The adverse effects of adoptionon the welfare of the child has been recognised for decades with the identity and loss of biological connection issues experienced by them being mirrored inthose of the donated generation.

Tomlins states "the biggest stumbling block for women is how they see the resulting child". This child is no different from any of their own children in that the factors that make up this child, it's DNA, is the same. The only difference is the emotional and monetary input that goes into raising the child. This DNA will govern how the child will look, many of it's interests and in many cases how it behaves. While it was previously thought that much ofa person's personallity was environamentally driven it is being discovered that more and more of it is in fact genetically derived. This is no more apparent than in those identical twins that have been separated at birth that have grown up still leading rather identical lives and interests. Many donor offspring once being reunited with their donor have finally been able to place certain looks and character traits that is not evident in their raising family directly to their donor. To be able to do so provides the offspring with a greater sense of completeness as they otherwise only have half the picture of who they are.

Tomlins states " that it is quite common for donors to meet the baby". This is clearly incorrect as the Monash study shows that only 30% of offspring are aware of their conception. The rest have been deceived about their origins, yet many once they discover later on in their lives about their conception they will often remark about how they didn't seem to fit properly. Out of this 30%,an even smaller amount will ever meet their donor. For those born in the 60s,70s and early 80s the numbers are even lower with many offspring unable to access any records (even non-identifying) as they have been either destroyed or just not kept.

In her statement that "Their children have a special story, they say, a story of which they are proud", Tomlins is only referring to point in which the child is only a child. As they grow older their views may change, some will, some won't. The point is that as a juvenile you are too busy being a child to be concerned with identity issues and family relations. These don't surface until teenage years and in some instances not until adulthood. For me personally it did not change until I was 28 and had children of my own. Until that time I was a supporter of donor anonymity and also reasonably proud of myorigins. Now it is completely the opposite. Through my own childrens eyes I have been able to recognise the unbreakable bond that flesh and blood gives us. No matter what may ever happen between my wife and myself, or whatever mayhappen to me, I will always be my children's father. Nothing can ever change that. As soon as I thought about how it would break my heart that my children might ever grow up not knowing who I am, was I able to relate that to my own situation of being donor conceived. I was able to fully understand how the severance of my biological connection with my father had deprived me of family relations, it has left me with only knowing half of who I am, and has given me a different family name than the one I otherwise should have. It has also deprived me of a family heritage and family health history. I cannot answer health surveys or questions from doctors acurrately which can adversely affect my health. I was also unable to answer all of the questions in our recent national census.

I still love both of my parents as much as I ever could, and the death of my father when I was 10 was the single most devastating loss of my life. Yet this love does not fill the void both myself and many other donor offspring experience as a direct result of being donor cenceived. While I can understand how heart wrenching infertility is now that I have children of my own, what many recicpients need to also understand is that they are making very serious decisions on behalf of this child that will grow up into an adult with feelings of their own. Their emotional pain of infertility may be passed on into emotional pain for their child.

The most important thing we hold dear in our society, is that of our family.Yet due to donor conception practices and the laws of SA, I like thousands of others will never know who my own flesh and blood is.

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