Thursday, August 16, 2012

What Do “I” Want From My Father?

Usually I try and talk about the experiences of offspring from a collective perspective and as a bloke I don’t usually like talking about my own feelings. Perhaps these things make us vulnerable which is something we don’t like. However, today, not sure whether it is the mood I am in, but I thought I’d discuss this issue from my perspective because it is a question that many people wrangle with when discussing access to identifying information on our fathers.
So what do I want from him?
No I do NOT want his money. This is a concern many donors and people have in the community. I am an adult now, I don’t need child support payments and I really couldn’t care less about any claims to his estate. If my father was worried about that I would be happy to sign a document preventing any such claim. My search has never ever been about money and I have never heard another offspring talk about money either. Any talks about money are incongruous and spurious, and just plain scaremongering. Additionally he is protected by law here in South Australia anyway.
What I do want is acknowledgement that I exist. That I am a person. That I am his son by blood, just as any other children he has had are equally his due to the same biological fact.
I want to know who he is so that I can know who I am. The identity questions. What he looks like? What is my heritage, where does my family come from? Who is the rest of my family, my siblings, my grandparents etc? I want to know the rest of my family. I want to know what are his likes and dislikes, what are his vocation and education. I have so many traits that do not fit in with the family I currently have knowledge of, at times I feel like I don’t belong and this is something that has bothered me my entire life – this lack of a concrete foundation.
I want to know what my familial medical history is. What is potentially in store for me, what do I need to look out for. I am concerned also for my own children.
I want him to know that his decision to sell off a plastic specimen cup for a few bucks almost 40 years ago has caused me immense emotional pain and that as a father myself I see that as akin to abandoning a child. It is something I could never do. That his decision to sell me has prevented me from being a part in my sibling’s life and theirs in mine, and that this hole that has been created can never be filled. I want him to know that the fact that I cannot give him and his side of my family and everything associated with it to my own children, that his decision does not affect only his son but his grandchildren too. The fact that my children are innocent collateral damage troubles me no end.
Do I want a relationship with him? That is a difficult question. You cannot force a relationship on anyone. He might not want one. We might not even like each other. In an ideal world it would be nice to see and speak to each other and then he could even see his grandchildren grow up. But I am under no delusions about such situations.
My father should have no reason to fear me. I do not seek to turn his life upside down. I do not seek anything from him that should be too burdensome for him. The main thing I want from him is compassion. The rest would follow.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Conflict Through Opinion

Reading a blog elsewhere that was dealing with donor conception and the posts on a particular thread, the debate really got out of hand. Personally I am all for free speech and people expressing their opinions so long as they don’t become personal attacks which is what started happening in that debate. Instead of debating or arguing the “argument”, some took it upon themselves to become personal. When this happens no-one listen to the others point of view and it ends up pretty much becoming a waste of time. I don’t think the adversarial approach is the best way to get people to come around to your way of thinking but that is just me.
That said it did appear that there were many who were reading that blog and posting who were only after pats on the back and reassurances that their decision about using donated gametes was the correct one. There are plenty of forums specifically set-up for that sort of thing, so if you don’t want to hear any potential negatives then those people were perhaps visiting the wrong website. Many were complaining that the thread would create undue harm to those visiting the site who were looking to use donor gametes, I would perhaps argue that it might hopefully get some of them to think about some of the other complexities that can be involved and question their reasons for doing it (even if the thread did end up being a bit of a slanging match). For myself I would like people to think about the choices they are making and to view these choices through the eyes of the child they are about to create and the outcomes that can produce (remembering that love may not conquer all – Hollywood myth) because that can change the perspective a hell of a lot.
Debate and civil discourse on this topic is good, arguing with abuse not so.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Accessing Donor Information in Australia Paper

Caroline Lorbach and myself have just had a paper published in a special edition of the Journal of Law and Medicine which focuses on donor conception here in Australia.

Here is the abstract:
Donor conception practices in Australia have left thousands of donor-conceived people, their families and gamete donors bereft of information. The lack of a nationally timeline-consistent approach to information access has driven these people to seek support and information from self-help groups, online communities and even their own DNA. This article examines the historical perspective of information access and how progress is being made through lobbying and public awareness. To determine the current status of information availability, fertility clinics around Australia were surveyed. It is argued that current practices continue to fail donor-conceived people, their families and gamete donors, and that until all donor offspring are afforded the right to know their genetic family history, they will continue to suffer discrimination, and potentially risk psychological and physical trauma.

Aussie Research on the Views of Donors and Recipient Parents

For any Aussie's out there that fall into the donor or recipient parent category please consider taking part in the following research study.

Attitudes to Disclosure in Donor Conception Study

Researchers at The University of Western Australia and Concept Fertility Centre are investigating the reasons people choose to tell or not to tell members of their family and wider social network about their involvement in donor conception.

Who can participate?
• Recipients of sperm, eggs or embryos, and their partners
• Donors of sperm, eggs or embryos

What is involved?
• Completion of an anonymous online (or paper) questionnaire. The questionnaire takes about 15-20 minutes.
• Project information and access to the questionnaire is available in the Research Section of the Perth IVF Website OR
• Email Dr Kathy Sanders for a paper copy
More information
• Please contact Assistant Professor Kathy Sanders at the School of Anatomy, Physiology & Human Biology, The University of Western Australia.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Story to Help People Understand

The following is a story that DC person Barry Stevens tells in the documentary Anonymous Father’s Day. It is actually one of his DC sibling’s stories but his name was not mentioned so I cannot credit him with it. Why am I relaying it here (in my very badly worded style, from memory)? Because I have seen more people respond to this analogy more than any other, such that they say “I think I understand your position a little better now.”

A couple are expecting their first baby, the woman is heavily pregnant, but because she has some time to go before the baby is due they have taken an overseas holiday. While they are overseas the baby decides it is going to arrive early so the couple head off to the hospital. It is a modern hospital with a good reputation. The baby is delivered successfully without problems, and the couple are naturally very happy. To give them a moment to recover, the nurse takes the baby away to the nursery.
After a while the couple ask the nurse “Can we have our baby now please?”
The nurse replies “OK I’ll bring ‘A’ baby now for you.”
Startled the couple say “Excuse us, we would like OUR baby.”
To which the nurse replies “That is not how we do it here. We just bring any baby from the nursery. But don’t worry all the babies here are extremely healthy, all from good backgrounds, they will love you and you will it, everything will be fine.”

But of course it isn’t fine. There is something very wrong with that. So if it is possible to see how there could be a problem with that, then why is it so hard to see that there is something wrong with denying us the same thing.

And that is knowledge of our genetic parents and heritage. The perspective is just reversed (from that of the child rather than from that of a parent).
I am sure I haven’t told it as well as Barry did but hopefully you get the point. Or perhaps you might like to watch Anonymous Father’s Day and hear it properly.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Retrospectivity for Victoria

This morning (Wednesday 28th March, 2012 – mark that day down in your history books), the state of Victoria in Australia, had a recommendation by it’s own Law Reform Commission (VLRC) which was tabled before parliament that stated that ALL donor conceived people, not just those born after a certain date, should have access to identifying information on their donor. In effect giving Victorian’s retrospective access to their records.
You can see the report here:
This is a world first whereby a governmental body has recognised that donor conceived people should be treated like everyone else in that society who have access to and knowledge of their progenitors. It won’t help those of us who have had our records destroyed, but it is a fundamental and important concept to attempt to correct the wrongs of the past, but more importantly to have the outcomes of this kinship separation acknowledged as being potentially harmful to the person conceived this way.
Now to just get the legislation created and enacted, and then, just as importantly to get the rest of Australia to follow suit.
It has been an incredibly long and arduous struggle by so many people to create social change, but it is great to finally see all our hard work pay off in the end.
Today, everything is right the world.