Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Action

A roundup of psychoanalytic points of view

Is It Important to Know Sperm or Egg Donor Identity?

Is it Important to Know the Identity of a Sperm or Egg Donor? Donor conception raises questions about genetic connections. Read More

all bets are off when it comes to future anonymity

Any attempts to manage donor anonymity decades into the future are likely rendered completely moot by advances in DNA analysis, Internet search methods, and the determined efforts which some donor offspring will make in a quest to find their true parent. There are already Internet sites where donor offspring can find their half siblings, verify it by DNA analysis, and pool their search efforts for their common true donor parent. And there are probably technology improvements we don't even anticipate at this point that will further aid this kind of effort in the future.

I would say to any donor at this point, especially a sperm donor who might end up being a popular choice in a sperm bank -- you have no guarantee that your biological children won't come knocking on your door. They might be on a quest to satisfy a deep emotional hunger to know their true parent. Or they might have a very special and important medical need, perhaps related to genetic commonalities some of which aren't yet understood. Or there's an outside chance laws could change and you might be on the hook for something you thought you were guaranteed not to be.

Future anonymity

I also believe that in the future, anonymity will be the exception, rather than the rule as it has been, in donor conception. Many countries have begun to make this a legal issue of children's rights. In the U.S., I doubt that an anonymous donor will be required, after many years of no contact and anonymity, to be responsible to children conceived from his/her gametes. There is a lot of legal work being done in the U.S. to clarify children's, donors and intended parents' legal rights and responsibilities.

I am happy that individuals conceived with donor gametes are speaking up because talking openly about donor conception contributes to how our society is changing, evolving greater recognition of donor conception, as happened with adoption in years past. Talking also helps us pay attention to our language. The writer's use of the term "true parent" is an effort to get at an essential genetic link, which I understand is important. It is also complicated because the designation of "true parent," in my thinking, is reserved for the person who really "parented" a child, helped them grow up, trust others, feel safe, and learn about the world. We know that sometimes this special title belongs equally to the person who helped us be born, and raised us. In many families, the "true parent" is a special individual who might not have a genetic connection with the child--a grandparent, a mom or dad, a friend, a step-parent or foster-parent, a teacher or even a therapist!

true parent

I agree that "true parent" SHOULD mean the people who love you and raised you. But in the mind of a few donor offspring, the term could also become a romanticized and unrealistic concept fueling a concerted long-term quest. What does he or she look like? Do they have the same quirky sense of humor that I have and that my other parent doesn't have? And when they meet their donor half-siblings through one of the websites, they see commonalities of personality that are sometimes shocking, and unlike the other parent they are related, fueling the desire to meet "the one" even more. I saw this coming years ago, just on an emotional basis, and therefore did not want to donate sperm. The thought of having my own offspring, perhaps introspective and trying find their place in the world, long for meeting their genetic father, really gets me emotional. I would hate to deprive them of that and remain, in my personal opinion, cowardly anonymous. Of course, not all donor offspring are going to feel that way at all, but some will, and that would bother me.

And now, with all the new technology, and advances yet unknown, anonymity is no longer a sure bet at all. I think one of the cable channels had a whole series about this last year -- some girl went on a long effort to track down her donor father. She found him, and was allowed to write him a letter, but he didn't want to meet her. Which in my opinion, totally sucked.

legal rights

I agree with you... I also doubt that anonymous donors will be responsible for their children. But that's making it too black-and-white. There are a lot of shades of gray here, and I'm not confident the law will protect a donor completely from all issues which may arise, especially issues which we cannot anticipate at this point. Public perception changes, political winds change, and laws which once seemed written in stone can be unwound or reinterpreted. There is no limit to what can happen in the sausage factory given enough time. There could be unique and compelling medical/genetic reasons for the donor to contribute and participate in some kind of information gathering, medical testing or sampling. In extreme cases, there might even be a lawsuit. Even if the lawsuit is dismissed, the donor might have to expend resources to defend themselves. Donor offspring might even locate and make unwanted contact with the donor, regardless of laws and donor contracts. It can happen much more easily in the future.

To say that just because the laws don't require the donor to be responsible, does in no way guarantee that the donor will be free of real hassles when he/she can be found and approached by donor offspring for who knows what reason.

Yes, it matters.

Our mother deliberately conceived my half-sister and myself with the intention of raising us only by herself. We know NOTHING about our biological fathers, and this has impacted us throughout our lives.

As children, our issues were mostly psychological (we wanted A father, any father, and the paternal family that would go with it), but as we grew older, medical issues also came into play.

For example, once I read about Huntington's Disease as a teenager, I became utterly terrified that I might unknowingly have such a bomb waiting to detonate in my genes. Even worse, I could unknowingly transmit such a disease to my children someday!

I've calmed down now, but I'm still deeply unhappy that I know nothing about half my genetic make-up, and thus also about a quarter of my son's make-up.

The constant discoveries in the domain of epigenetics don't help either. So now it's not just what genes I inherited from my biological father I have to worry about, but also what markers he may have collected from his own or his ancestors' history! Talk about a mess! And I and my sister and my son have to walk blind through these potential minefields.

It's just not fair to kids to deprive them of their own history (medical and familial) just for the sake of the parents not having to confront their own selfish desires to be able to pretend that their child is "all theirs". No, he or she is not. He's his own person, and she should be given access to everything that might be of concern to her now or later. If those parents truly love their children, then they will want what is BEST for them, not just "good enough".

Why would anyone think it is not important?????

I've noticed that it seems to be very important to know - for those that don't know who their genetic parents are.

It's no different than being in a closed adoption (closed meaning the adopted person can Not obtain identifying information about their genetic parents without a court order. And the judges do not grant access for the reason of "I want to know") The US government and many people assist in keeping self serving secrets like these.

Why would some people entertain the idea of taking and keeping identifying genetic information from some people as if it isn't extremely important?

What is the motive? Who wins here? Certainly not the person who wants to know about themselves.

Many people would like for it to be different, possibly because it's fairly new. Many people think it is entirely different since the newly created hasn't lost their gestational mother, like in adoption. One step towards better, but the genetic identity is still lost in the same way. It's not all about pregnancy and birth - for the one born.
It's not different.

Regardless of the reason, (relinquishment/adoption of live baby, egg, sperm or embryo donor conceived, unknown father, etc.) People typically want to know about themselves, which means knowing about those people who gave them their genetic makeup. Not to mention their siblings, which can be many!

Why would someone want to take that from another?
Why would our government step up to hold more secrets like this from only some of it's citizens?
What's to hide?
And why hide it?

Those are the questions that should be asked more often.

True parent?

Just like an adopted person, the donor conceived have more than two true parents.
Genetic, Gestational, Legal, Social parents - ALL TRUE PARENTS.
That's the real truth.

it's "me and right now" thinking

The lack of consideration for the rights and expectations for the donor children results in part from "me right now" thinking. When the considerations are made, only the parents are alive and have their own issues and concerns. The donor children are some hazy future prospect, with the assumption that they will be taken care of fairly and with respect, of course, in the future, somehow.

You see the same kind of thinking when it comes to divorce and a relationship that's not working out. You see it even in articles and discussions here on PT. If a relationship is not working out, the first suggestion is often to "move on" to a new relationship. The question isn't even asked, and perhaps doesn't even come to mind, what if there are children in the relationship? It's only about the parents and if they are getting enough sex and feel fulfilled and their right to feel fulfilled. Period.

"Couples often struggle with

"Couples often struggle with the reality that one partner will have a genetic link to their child, and the other will not."

That's an issue to be dealt with and accepted BEFORE you create children.

That's similar to saying "We don't want to know the sex of our unborn child"

The next line is - We will be happy either way.

Um not knowing at conception is temporary. It may be very easy to determine by just looking at the outcome! And if not, blood types are easy to obtain, and can often rule someone out. It's always fun to find out who your father is Not during science class at school. Not.

20 years from now the kids

20 years from now the kids can get advanced gene analysis and matching done if they want it.

We are heading into a post-genetic age. This bothers some people of the older generations.

Sorry. Things change in the world. Try to keep up.

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Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Action, edited by Susan Kolod, Ph.D., and Melissa Ritter, Ph.D, is under the auspices of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, the journal of the William Alanson White Institute.

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