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Monday, July 15, 2013

The Fallacy of Donors Wanting to be Anonymous

This is a guest post from a former donor, Ian Smith, who wishes to dispell the myth that all donors who donated under conditions of anonymity wish to remain so. Clinics and Doctors are wrongfully speaking on these peoples behalf disseminating misinformation through the public media. Ian wants to set the record straight:

Sperm donors – emerging from the shadows

The voice of the sperm donor is often the one less heard in debates on donor conception.   In relation to the issue of anonymity and possible removal of that anonymity the donor's views are often the subject of conjecture, assumption and assertion.  But are those assumptions right?   For the most part I think not. 

Members of the medical profession and others are often quick to assert the importance of the anonymity which donors were (apparently) promised in the 1970’s and 80s when there was significant expansion of donor conception practices in Australia.   Typical examples of such assertions can be seen here http://www.theage.com.au/comment/allow-sperm-donors-the-right-to-maintain-their-past-anonymity-20130507-2j5o4.html  and here http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/why-the-promise-to-sperm-donors-must-be-honoured-20120410-1wmus.html

Recently and increasingly sperm donors are speaking up for themselves – and for the most part they reject the notion that they wish to hide behind veils of anonymity.  I am a member of that group of former donors who are speaking up.   See for example this piece http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/father-figures-20111112-1ncxt.html  which in turn encouraged other former donors to make contact with me.   Peter Liston is one such – a piece featuring an interview with him here http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/sperm-donor-steps-up-for-offspring-who-want-to-know-20121208-2b2ej.html and a piece on which Peter and I collaborated here http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/allow-our-donor-children-to-know-their-heritage/story-fni0ffsx-1226679227163
From these connections with former donors a group has evolved – the Melbourne Anonymous Donors (MADMen).   Using that group as the base I recently undertook a small research study exploring the views of sperm donors.  That has now been published in a special – donor conception focused - edition of the Australian Journal of Adoption http://www.nla.gov.au/openpublish/index.php/aja/issue/current.
I interviewed seven former donors from the 1970s and 80s.  Key issues explored included:
  • Motivations for being a donor
  • Did donors give informed consent?
  • Their thoughts of the children born
  • The issue of anonymity – was it promised or imposed?
  • Contact – actual or potential
  • What name to use for sperm donors?
  • Attitudes to proposed changes to Victorian legislation to remove anonymity for pre-1988 donors.
  • Reflections and observations on being a sperm donor – with the benefit of hindsight, would they do it again?
 While the sample in this study is small, it nonetheless opens a window to an area that has until now been largely shrouded in mystery and thus open to the kind of assertions by and from the medical fraternity which are noted at the beginning of this post.  The interviews demonstrate that – at least for this group – the children fathered are far from forgotten.   Rather these men think actively of them and hope to meet and know their offspring (and in some cases have achieved that.  Far from being a fearful of the removal of anonymity the past sperm donors whose views are reported here will welcome and embrace such change. 
The full article:   Sperm donors – moving out of the shadows. Contact and connection between former sperm donors and their offspring - experiences and perspectives” is worth a read.   You can find it here: http://www.nla.gov.au/openpublish/index.php/aja/article/view/3061/3607
I welcome comment and questions on this topic:  iwsmith@netspace.net.au

1 comment:

Peter Liston said...

You speak for many of us former donors Ian. Unfortunately the Legislative changes will not improve our chances of meeting our offspring if they have not been informed of their origins by their parents (as most have not). I think the key for us is the proposals to educate the public so that donor parents are encouraged to tell their children.