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
 
Ian.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Genetic Genealogy Trumps Anonymity

Here is the abstract to a paper I just wrote and published on this subject. The link below will take you to the full article, just click on the full text pdf link on the Australian Journal of Adoption website (it is open access (free)).
Building a Family Tree: Donor-Conveived People, DNA Tracing and Donor 'Anonymity'
Damian Adams, Sonia Allan
Abstract
Genealogical tracing of ancestors has existed across cultures and throughout history for thousands of years. Today it is a popular pastime for many, with motivations ranging from a desire to place themselves and their family within a larger historical picture, to preserving the past for future generations, to having a sense of self-satisfaction in accurate storytelling. It may also serve to assist people in framing their identify and building a picture of themselves. It may create a sense of connectedness and kinship. This is so for donor-conceived people, as it is with many others that search for information about their family history and heritage.

This paper considers the obstacles to searching that donor-conceived people face. In particular, the secrecy that has surrounded donor conception has meant that many do not have access to the records that would identify their donor(s) or siblings. It examines the use of DNA testing, to assist. It is shown that, while proving a useful tool for some, such testing may not be enough for others. That donor-conceived people are denied access to records that would provide them with the information they seek is questioned. The authors therefore support laws that would provide access to records. Options of enabling contact vetoes or contact preferences are explored, as a way to ensure that people are comfortable that privacy and confidentiality will be protected.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

New BBC Documentary on DC



I have no connection with this production. The producers have asked me to circulate information regarding their request to speak to people. Please contact them directly if you are interested:

Award-winning British filmmaker Sue Bourne has recently been commissioned by BBC2 to make a major new documentary about the Danish sperm industry and is looking for people to assist her with her research. 

What is intriguing is the fact that this small country has become the major player in the sperm bank business internationally. Why has this happened, and what are the possible consequences? This film will follow the compelling human stories at the heart of the international sperm trade, to increase public understanding of this complex, fascinating and often-misunderstood issue.

We are very keen to talk to all the people who are involved in each stage of the sperm bank business – the clientele coming to Denmark or having the sperm shipped to where they live; the donors, the staff, the clinics and of course the donor conceived children as well.

In particular we would love to speak to families and individuals who were created using a Danish sperm donor. We would like to understand more about what it’s like growing up as a DC child? What are your thoughts and feeling around the anonymity debate? Have you ever felt the need to track down your donor? What advice would you give to individuals and couples who are considering donor insemination today? Whatever your point of view, we would love to hear from you.

At this stage we are just having informal phone conversations with people. These chats can be completely confidential and there is no obligation to take part in the final film. It would just be great if you could help us increase our understanding of all the different issues involved.  

If you might be interested in having an initial phone conversation with Sue’s team, please do get in touch with Sarah Harris (Assistant Producer) at Wellpark Productions on 020 8932 0133 / 07958710362 or sarahhar@gmail.com