Pratten and Two New Studies–Isn’t There a Middle Ground on the Donor Question?

I’ve been thinking about the Pratten case (which has been discussed on the blog a bunch to times) and a couple of new studies that have crossed my path.   All of these items make one think about how to manage the use of donor gametes.  (In general, I prefer to call these third-party gametes, but it’s hard to only use that terminology when the popular press consistently says “donor.”

Anyway, use of third party or donor sperm (or eggs) has been discussed a number of times here.   Typically those discussions are spurred by some specific story–like the Pratten case.  But sometimes its just as useful to think about a question without a specific case in mind.   I’ve been trying to do that.   And I find myself wondering (again?) why there isn’t a fairly obvious middle ground that might draw people together.

I know a number of people are concerned that those who are donor conceived do not have access to information about their genetic lineage, which can be important both for health reasons and for some sense if identity.  Any real compromise solution ought to take these points into account.    At the same time, people use third-party gametes (and ART generally) to create families, and it seems to me important to take that, too, into account.

To satisfy the first set of concerns you’d have to ensure 1) that people know that they are donor conceived and 2) that they have access to information and perhaps, contact (if they want it.)   (Maybe it is worth noting that I’m concerned here with the rights of the donor conceived rather than the rights of the donors/providers.   That’s because I think adults ought to decide to become donors/providers.)

At the same time, what the prospective parents want is to be legal parents–to raise a child from infancy to adulthood.     I think this implies a corollary–that the gamete provider is not a legal parent.   But there’s no reason why a gamete provider couldn’t be recognized as something other than a legal parent.

And this, it seems to me, is where there ought to be middle ground.    Why can’t we acknowledge the importance of the gamete provider without making the person a legal parent?    Why can’t we ensure access to information and, in desired, contact without making te provider a legal parent?

There’s one potential hitch that is apparent to me.   How does information about the provider get transmitted to the donor conceived child?   There are, it seems to me, two possibilities.  One is that the legal parents transmit the information.   The other is that the state somehow undertake the role.    The problem with the former is that I’m sure some people will worry that not all parents will transmit the information.   The problem with the latter is that I hardly trust the state to transmit the information in a way that is sensitive to the needs of the particular child. (Perhaps I should make explicit an assumption here–that children will have different needs at different ages.  The state would have to do some sort of one-size-fits-all solution which is why I’m skeptical about it.)

At the same time, while I think there are important differences between the issues around third-party gametes and adoption, I also think it is foolish not to learn from experience.   Adoptive parents are far more likely to disclose information to their children today than the were fifty years ago.    And adopted children are more likely to have information about their genetic parents these days then they were.  This suggests to me that with the right incentives and the right circumstance (and the right education) people who use third party gametes will also come to be more reliable conduits for information.

There’s nothing at all new here, as those who have been reading along regularly will doubtless realize.  But I haven’t tried to lay this out for a while and it seems increasingly apparent to me that this is the closest thing to a middle-ground I can discern.    And so I wonder, what’s wrong with the compromise?  Granted it is a compromise–but isn’t it fairly clear that that’s what we’ll end up with?

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39 responses to “Pratten and Two New Studies–Isn’t There a Middle Ground on the Donor Question?

  1. Good one!

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. The cops won’t help us keep one of our relatives away from the house on Christmas eve or help stop grandma from sending our children unwanted gifts unless we have a restraining order out against that relative for assault or harassment. Sure parents have the legal authority to informally prevent relatives from having contact with a minor child,. Parents do not however, have the right to keep the existence of their child secret from their relatives. The government won’t make a person tell their relatives about the existence of their offspring or adopted children, however all their relatives do have the right to information about your children and your adopted children if they want it and seek it out. The children and adopted children also have the right to information about all their parents relatives. Parents can’t stop relatives from obtaining their child’s birth, marriage or death certificates, even when their child is still a minor. Relatives don’t need permission from the relative they are looking up or from that relative’s parents if the relative is a minor. It is the right of the relative to request and be provided with copies of one another’s vital records. This is critical especially when family communication breaks down and family members are trying to figure out if the rumors of a previous marriage are true or if their parent is hiding the existence of other children. The government cannot force family members to get along or stay in touch. The government cannot force family members to stay in contact, to love one another, to communicate or share medical information – but the government can and does empower family members by giving them the legal right to access their relatives birth marriage and death records because that information is vital to the health of the entire family and it is not within the purview of any one family member to conceal or keep secret. When information is vital to people other than yourself, it is not yours to keep private, not yours to conceal, not yours to withhold.
    When someone fails to be named as a parent on the birth record of their offspring it places that person and all of their genetic relatives in a compromised position of not being able to prevent themselves or their future children from unintentional incestuous contact because they won’t know one another and they have no legal rights to secure copies of one another’s birth marriage or death records. They don’t have the option of sharing medical information if they want and they don’t have the option of forming personal relationships if they want. When someone fails to be named as parent on the birth record of their offspring the information collected by CDC on a birth record is at best incomplete and at worst entirely wrong naming an unrelated person whose information will be inaccurately attributed to the physical condition of the estranged parent’s offspring. Incomplete and genetically inaccurate vital records make medical research in the field of heritable disease a pointless undertaking and a waste of tax money. Every adopted person whose birth record is revised is hindered from it and so are all their relatives. Every person whose mother commits paternity fraud and all their relatives are hindered from that. Every quasi marital child and all their relatives are compromised.

    Anyone with a genetically inaccurate or incomplete birth record is unable to exercise their full rights to information that would help them and their relatives have the info to make informed health decisions and prevent unintentional incestuous relationships.
    So let me ask you Julie why do we want to or need to help people conceal this information from their relatives? Why do we care about the fact that people want to build families with children that are not their offspring? Why don’t we require that they do it in a way that does not leave other people in a bad position? Why are they so special? Why do they deserve this cookie?

  3. The government should not interfere with the inner workings of families. No big brother for me. If it means some people will fall through the cracks, than so be it; that is the lesser of two evils.
    In any case, the majority of people who would engage in secrecy are married heterosexual couples who are engaging in sperm donation less and less due to advances in treating male infertility. Although that doesn’t address egg donation.
    Also I believe it’s important to differentiate between Anonymous sperm donors and Known donors. There should be no such thing as a known donor. the legal status of donor (non parent) should equal anonymous.
    It is easy to make a case that an unknown, anonymous person is not a legal parent. In fact I find it very hard to make a case otherwise.
    But to declare that some known, identified males are fathers and some are not, simply based on whether they had intercourse or not, is an arbitrary line that introduces confusion and tension into a family and the life of a growing child. For the government to create a law like this, in favor of one party of the family, is already undue interference.

    • Ki but do you see where a person while a minor is in fact entitled to their own genetic father period and point blank? You realize that the state will hunt down any many who may have engaged in baby making conduct with the mother and force him to take a DNA test? So much for freedom and a right to privacy right? Worried about forcing people to prove they are telling the truth when a child is born? Guess what, they don’t take a guys word for it when it comes to whether or not he is the father they force him to take the test and if he refuses you know what the government does? They’ll force one of his family members to take the test on his behalf in order to determine whether or not he is the father. That is how much of a right minors have to not just any old guy pretending to be their father, but their own actual father. And if their father is located he will be named on the birth record and made to pay back the money the state lent him in order to take care of his kid while he was not doing that himself and will garnish his wages in the future for his child’s support until the kid turns 18 if they have to. If the tests are all negative the state does not just name any old guy, the line for father stays blank and if he does ever show up they will hold him responsible for his child. Do you see any reason to terminate the child’s right to be supported by their father even though he is absent? We don’t always get what we deserve in life but it does not mean someone needs to come along and take away our right to something just because we are not using it at the moment. I don’t vote all the time but it’s nice to know I have the option if it strikes my fancy ever. Do you see any reason to let the mother just say someone else is the father when he’s not? Why not just say he’s a step father so the child can have her husband’s support without loosing their rights to membership in their estranged parent’s family. Its unfair to take that away from them for no reason.

      • The state will not interfere with locating biological fathers unless their assistance is requested by the mother (and perhaps the child). And the mother usually knows who the father is in this case, or at least she can narrow it down to only a couple of men. He is not anonymous.

        • So your point is what? How anonymous is anonymous? The donor’s information is in truth far more available than a one night stand guy, just ask the clinic for his name, they have that and more info on him. Why are we promising these men that they don’t have to take care of their offspring? Is that fair to their offspring?

        • That is not true she does not need to request assistance looking for the father. They will look for them if she needs financial assistance. I think this is pretty damned unfair to children whose mothers are independently wealthy and never seek welfare. So all the poor kids get their fathers hunted down for them and the rich kids don’t – its all terribly unfair. If they were being given up for adoption the state would try and hunt the real father down.

          Here again the people who are loosing their identities and their families are people raised by someone with money that can fly under the radar. They are basically buying the chance to keep the child all to themselves. This is what happens with marital presumption as well. The truth can be concealed because the husband is paying for the kid. The kid could have the full support of the father and the full support of the joint income of the mother and her husband but nooooooooooooooo they want the kid all to themselves to pretend they formed a family. sick i tell you.

      • This is probably a key place where we disagree. I think you’re view is that a one-year old needs to have access to her/his genetic father? I’m not sure why that is and I don’t think I agree. I’m not sure a one-year-old needs to know anything at all about manner of conception and who is involved and all that.

        So we could go through the years this way, right? I’ll agree that at some point some children may (perhaps I can even say “will”) have this need, but it is going to vary child to child. And I don’t see any way to manage the different needs of different children than to leave it to the parents. The legal parents, I mean. (This is what we do with adoption.) I think we can do a lot to encourage them to be forthright with their kids and to understand that there may be important reasons to be forthright.

        Now perhaps we agree that there is no practical alternative but to leave it to the legal parents (who are also the social parents, which is important here.) And maybe this is one of the reasons you reject the entire idea I’m offering?

        If the genetic father were also the (or a?) legal father you’d have a completely different picture.

    • Do you think its big brotherish Ki that the government names people with offspring as parents on their children’s birth certificates? Do you think its big brotherish that the government lets relatives obtain copies of one another’s birth marriage and death records? Because that is all the government does do and it is all they need to do in order to give people access to the information they need to make informed health and reproductive decisions. Im not suggesting anything more than what is normal rights and responsibilities for the rest of the population. Sure people lie but the right to your family’s records is always there whether you see your family members and get along with them or not. The government does not need to go out of its way to inform donor offspring, it just needs to reord these donors as parents so that their offspsring and family members will have the same access to info that other people have

      • I’m not dealing with the question of birth certificates… that’s a separate issue to me and rather secondary to the question of who has legal parental rights and responsibilities.

    • Lot’s to think about here. First of all, I do think there are always trade-offs (like the big brother one you allude to) and it is good to keep them in mind. Probably all of us draw some lines some places where other interests (like state intrusion) simply become intolerable.

      Second, I agree about who it is who is engaging in secrecy. It’s also clear, I think, that secrecy around use of third-party gametes is diminishing. We’ve chatted about this here before–it seems to be following the arc of open adoption. People who are using ART to have children do generally want what is best for those children. For years they were counselled to keep secrets and they followed that advice. Now they get different advice. I think they’ll follow it. I know I’ve said this before, but I think we should make it easy for them to do this and that means not insisting that they aren’t really parents.

      I see what you are saying about anonymous vs. known donors, but I don’t agree and this seems fairly important. There are people who need to use gametes from a third-party but also want the child to have access to that person and his/her family, etc. This is why they use a known donor. Everyone in the deal knows that the provider is not to be a legal parent–will not co-parent with the person receiving the gametes. I don’t see what is wrong with allowing this arrangment and indeed, I think it can be quite beneficial. For those who worry about the child having access to the genetic parent you get that. For me it isn’t about whether the child was conceived via intercourse or AI, though. I agree that this is a silly place to draw a line. It is more about the actual real structure of the family that results–the genetic provider is not acting nor does she/he mean to act like a parent.

      • I disagree with your presentation of the issue Julie. You state that you are concerned with the actual real structure, in which the genetic provider is not acting like a parent. But you advocate AGAINST the genetic provider acting like a parent in cases.
        “nor does he mean to act like a parent.” When? at the time of conception? and according to whom? And why does it matter?
        You specifically advocate a position in which the genetic provider SHOULD NOT serve as a parent. You advocate a position in which one party (usually the mother) should be given absolute control over defining the other’s relationship with the child.
        It is disingenuous to claim that you are merely responding to a situation that exists in which the child’s genetic parent is for whatever reason not playing a role. Because your position ACTIVELY advocates the very creation of this situation.

        • If you are so concerned about the day to day reality: The reality of the situation that you advocate is that there is a child with a person whom by most meanings of society, is this child’s father. The reality is likely to be tension and confusion.

  4. Took a look at one of your studies and like nearly all such studies, it references only donor conceived CHILDREN, not adolescents or adults.

    • You mean it studied the people when they were young? There are some that study older, but not as many. (Actually the second one here did that.) One problem that you often run up against–anyone who was donor conceived twenty plus years ago was raised in a different social setting. Increasingly the people using sperm, particularly, are lesbian couples and single women. That was not so true twenty or thirty years ago. I guess what I mean is that the populations and the culture have changed–which is not to say one shouldn’t have those studies.

  5. What type of “middle category” are you suggesting Julie? What about some sort of “middle category” for step parents or other relatives who are not parents but play a parental role? What would that involve?

    • There might be a middle category there, too, but it would be a different middle category and I’m not sure about that one. (The difference is that in one you’ve got people who have sort of taken on the role of social/psychological parent but perhaps not quite enough–that’s the one you just named–and in the other you have people who might be important to the child but not for reasons having anything to do with social role–that’s the genetic people.)

      What I was thinking (without having much definition to it) is that you could have a legal relationship where the child had various rights to information and contact, perhaps, without the genetic provider having any sort of parental rights. Indeed, I’m not even sure I’d give the genetic provider any particular rights to contact and information–after all that person can have waived any such rights when she/he agreed to provide the genetic material.

  6. Ki the birth certificate is everything – it is the means by which the state recognizes legal parenthood (at least initially) and it is the means by which the state communicates information about the individual named on the certificate to that individual and to all of their relatives and to the Federal government. Julie was asking how the state would get involved with telling people that they were the children of a donor and that is the way the state currently communicates to the rest of the population who their bio parents are. Its a pretty efficient system of disseminating information as long as everyone plays by the same rules. Its also the way that the state and Feds keeps track of how many children each person has….another tricky conundrum of art is how they keep track of all the offspring from each donor – well that is the way everyone else has their offspring counted and tracked. You cannot fairly address the issue of informing donor offspring about their genetic heritage without addressing the issue of communicating to them who and where all their siblings and other relatives are. Their estranged parent is only one slice in half of a missing pie.

    If your talking about legal parentage your talking about birth certificates. If your talking about counting the number of offspring each person has your talking about birth certificates and if your talking about how people are made aware of who their bio parents are your talking about birth certificates. That’s the way its done and struggling to somehow keep track of information, communicate information to offspring and their relatives in some other way is pointless unless every person born is going to be given a separate certificate of donorticity that states whether or not their birth certificate is biologically accurate and if not states the names of their bio parents and then gives legal recognition to genetic kinship equal to the weight given to the kinship through a birth certificate. But all people born would have to have a donor certificate so that it would be fair and everyone would know to check it and keep it with their birth record for ID.

    It would still do nothing about the problem that humans would be being sold and gifted by their bio parents.

  7. “There’s one potential hitch that is apparent to me. How does information about the provider get transmitted to the donor conceived child?….The problem with the latter is that I hardly trust the state to transmit the information in a way that is sensitive to the needs of the particular child. (Perhaps I should make explicit an assumption here–that children will have different needs at different ages. The state would have to do some sort of one-size-fits-all solution which is why I’m skeptical about it.)”

    Wow. I mean WOW. This just blows me away. I don’t know about you Julie but my biological parents names are on my birth record and I did not have to be any particular age in order to have unobstructed access to it either.

    The state is not worried about when or how I find out who my bio parents are. They are not worried about how or when my daughter finds out about who her bio parents are. Why should the state worry about how or when other people find out about who theirs are?

    What is done to adopted people by altering their records and withholding the originals from them is a reprehensible thing. It will come to be a period in history that this country is ashamed of the way we are ashamed of our former treatment of women and minorities.

    Why should we set aside this group of people Julie and treat them differently than everyone else? Why do we need a whole separate set of rules and procedures for documenting who their bio parents are? Why do we need a whole separate set method of communicating to them who their bio parents are? Why do we need a time frame for that communication when clearly nobody else has to wait to know the very same thing? Why do you want to treat these people differently than everyone else? What did they do that was so wrong? Or why are the people raising them so special that they get to withhold, conceal or wait to give out information that everyone else gets full unobstructed access to without having to ask or wait?

  8. Quote from the first study linked in the post…titled “Donor sperm families just as happy”

    “…surveyed all parents on a wide range of questions designed to measure levels of parental distress, the health of the couple’s relationship, the health of the parents’ relationships with their children and how well the family functions in terms of communication and support for one another.

    The children were aged five to 13 at the time.”

    This study did not actually need to be done, and should have been titled Donor Sperm Parents because they are the only ones studied and the ages of the children defy any long-term knowledge of happiness for them (not to say they wouldn’t be happy but it cannot be stated as fact). Further, the study was done by the Fertility Society of Australia, so even if not done with a bias, is simply a marketing tool.

    Having said all that Julie I agree – why can’t there be a compromise. My solution is that the full legal and genetic parentage should be listed on the Long Form birth certificate. Parents knowing that information is on the Long Form, which not used for day to day identification like the Short Form, would KNOW that there is a pretty decent chance their child will at some point find out – it would encourage them to be honest from the start. It also ensures that the information is secure, so a clinic closing, or one of those mysterious floods or fires, that seem to strike the record archives in adoption agencies on such a regular basis – would not be a concern.

    • Is it standard in psychological research, to study children by interviewing the parents, or is this unique to donor conception?

      • It’s pretty standard in the adoption studies I have seen. The one I like, if they must study children, is when it is a) parent report, b) child report not in the presense of the parent, c) teacher (etc) report. My primary concern in donor concieved / adoption reporting by parents is that due to the bias or stigma regarding those forms – the natural instinct is to make it all wonderful. Talking to adoptees who have been part of longitudinal studies, they also felt compelled as children to put the best foot forward because of that same bias / stigma, and only if the study continues into an age where the adoptees feel able to not make nice do you get more of the down side also experienced. If that makes any sense – and you can’t study children (teens) via a mail in questionaire either – because the adoptee or donor conceived will fill out the form knowing that a) mom and dad will read it, b) even if they don’t, they aren’t anonymous so the stigma will still tend to censor their answers.

        That’s the problem of studies of adoption and donor conceived in my opinion – and of course the way the questions are asked and then reworded and asked again – if the study is designed hoping for one result.

        I did a study not to long ago that was for adult adoptees. Not a single question was designed to ask how I felt, it was designed to know how it was to grow up, which parent was I closest too, what family rituals, what did we talk about at dinner, who made the rules in the family – those were the not so bad questions – I just find it strange to ask someone who has lived outside of the family home for over three decades about daily stuff when you were under 10. Really – who remembers what dinner conversations were like 30 years ago? No questions about the issues adult adoptees face, the feelings, the feeling pulled in opposite directions if in reunion – all about when we were little children. It was silly and I gave up because it was designed for a purpose not to actually listen and see how adult adoptees felt.

    • I have more than an average number of friends whose families were separated by adoption and gamete donation agreements and very few of those friends are outspoken or militant because they don’t want to upset the folks who raised them.
      Lots of people contact me after their folks pass away.

    • I think you are quite right that knowing information would be provided in time would strongly encourage people to take control and do it in their own way and their own time. That’s a saluatory effect of eventual disclosure.

  9. We need to make sure that helping childless people become parents is NEVER EVER EVER the reason why someone is not raised by their bio parents.

    It is not enough to simply tell donor offspring who their genetic family is Julie. The reason for them not being raised by their genetic family has to be something entirely unrelated to the fact that the people raising them wanted to be parents. The reason they are not raised by their genetic parents cannot be so that other people could build a family. Don’t you see? Telling is not enough to make the separation from the bio family ethical.

    Biological parents have a tremendous amount of power over their minor offspring. Creating offspring to serve some purpose while they are still minors is indeed an ethically questionable and I would assert abusive act.

    Biological parents that created their offspring to SERVE AS organ donors for a dying older sibling, are abusing their position of authority and control forcing their offspring to provide a service (tissue donation) to someone else while they are still dependent minors is, if only in my mind, an abuse of their power and authority. Being created by your genetic parents to serve a particular purpose while you are still a dependent minor is demeaning. Whether the purpose is to farm your organs to save the life of your older sibling, or whether the purpose is to lease you out to serve as as the child of a couple who can’t reproduce, the bottom line is that as a child you have no other choice but to do what it is that your parents want you to do. It is deeply demeaning.

    We have laws that say minors are not to serve their parents in any way shape or form; they are not to work and generate money for the family while they are minors, parents are not allowed to benefit monetarily from the earnings of their under age child.

    People are forcing their offspring into acts of service to play the roll of child to another family and they often benefit monetarily from placing their offspring in that service position. Even when there is no monetary benefit to the bio parent and the act of service performed by their minor offspring is only to help another person have something they need or want (like the person needs to have an organ or they’ll die, or they need to be parents or they’ll die), even then the altruistic act being performed by the minor is one they were forced to do.

    Gamete donation and embryo donation would be fine if it were not followed by the prerequisite abandonment or relinquishment of parental responsibilities by the donor upon the birth of their offspring.

    Most of the time adoptive parents desire to adopt is not the reason why someone gives their child up for adoption. The same cannot be said of parents of donor offspring. Telling the truth is never going to be enough for those people to make what they did ethical.

    Telling the truth is not a reasonable compromise when what you’re telling the truth about is unethical act in and of itself

    • Perhaps it is useful to distinguish between two views. Some people worry about things like accidental incest and sense of identity and medical information. To address these concerns, knowledge of the genetic parent might be enough.

      But it is also possible to make a stronger statement–like the one you have made above. If you say people ought to be actually raised by their genetic parents absent some unusual circumstance, then the compromise I suggest clearly won’t do.

      I have come to have a much greater appreciation of the first view above, which is why I find the compromise appealing.

      • I appreciate that you’ve had some subtle changes in opinion or rather subtle acceptance of the validity of a few concerns. Very respectful. That’s a good thing.

        I would like it if you could see that whether or not people ought to be raised by genetic parents barring some unusual circumstance makes it sound like I’m suggesting that genetic parents are somehow superior. I’m not. The fact is that genetic parents are in a position to do great harm to their offspring by selling them or leasing them to people who want to become parents but can’t for physical reasons. This is a very very serious thing and making a child for someone else to be a parent to is blatant co-modification of one’s own young and it is something society should be protecting minors from. It is very difficult to do that when the arrangements are made in advance so that one or both genetic parents are simply gone when their offspring is born and that allows other people the chance to put their names down as parents without the adoptive process so there is no record of the exchange. Black market style. I’ve come to realize that even if it were documented as an adoption there would still be this really demeaning behavior where people are making their offspring like little products for others to raise. That is not right. That is not a way humans should be treated. I’m even starting to feel bad about having a pet. Its pretty arrogant if you think about it having other creatures breed us their young so we can take and keep them for entertainment and companionship.

        I guess what I’m saying is there may well be people out there who really would be better at being parents than their own parents but the problem is that those people need to obtain someone else’s offspring to raise in a way that is not unethical and asking someone to create a child so you can take and keep that child all to yourself is commissioning it objectifies and treats a person as property. Leaving your name on a list in case something horrible happens and a kid looses both parents in an auto accident and has no other family to raise them, becoming the adoptive parent of that kid is going to put the adoptive parents in an ethical position and the kid is not a commodity not objectified or the opportunities for objectification are less obvious and less tempting if they exist.

  10. The snow should go it’s like the screen wont stop hiccuping.

  11. Julie what is your idea on how to make sure all their other relatives know about them. Surely if there is a right of the person to know who their relatives are it would extend equally to every member of the family and not just be a one way street. That is hardly fair.

    • Actually I think it might be a one-way street from my perspective. I think a person ought to be able to agree to provide gametes for someone else to use. That means certainly as to the actual provider, it is a one-way street because you give up whatever interests you have when you agree to provide the gametes. (I think that’s a serious thing to do and so one ought to be encouraged to think carefully about it, for what that is worth.) Then you are thinking about the siblings or parents, say, of the provider? I guess I don’t think those people have much of an interest and so I’m not actually worried about them. Giving them any kind of legally recognized interest would be incredibly complicated in a host of situations. I mean, suppose a genetically related legal parent was having their rights terminated for cause–would we have to consider the right sof the parent’s genetic relatives, too?

      • How can you say the donor’s relatives have no interest in who his or her children are? Certainly to the donor’s parents we are talking about their full 100% grandchildren out there running around very likely in their own city! The donor’s siblings are going to have their full 100% nieces and nephews out there running around as well. The donor’s nieces and nephews often have more than 100 full blooded 1st cousins living in the same metro region as them in the same age group Julie! How on earth can you suggest that the donors relatives are not just as negatively impacted by the anonymity and familial separation as the donor’s offspring? Why should any one member of the family have rank over another when the information is just as pertinent to them as it is to the rest of their relatives?

        The real problem with your compromise is that you are seeing this medical and health issue as a one way street as possibly the rights of the offspring but how is it that they would deserve to know who their cousin is but their cousin not know about them? Or are you saying the offspring should not have the right to access information on their first cousins? Are you limiting the offspring’s right to information just to knowing who the donor is? If the bio parent is not named on their birth record it does not matter if the child knows who their bio parent is they still can’t obtain copies of his/her records or his/her relatives records. Only by being named as a parent on a birth record can the donors relatives info be accessed by his/her children.

        You’re really missing the point. Medical and health info and the need to know relatives to avoid incest has to be a two way street – heck it is an information super highway. Families have the right to access one another’s records without one another’s permission at any age without the parent’s permission for crying out loud. I mean for crying out loud parents cannot stop grandparents from getting copies of their kid’s birth certificate. You can’t stop your sibling from getting a copy of your marriage certificate. Your family its their right and they don’t have to explain to anyone why they need the record. Its not for you to say that a 1 year old does not need access to those records. What if his Aunt needs access to his to communicate some grave familial illness and wants her nephew’s doctor to get in touch with her son’s doctor. Whatever maybe they just want to put a family tree together. You’re missing the point Julie. The right to know your relatives by having access to their records exists already and the parent of the child has no say in it at all zero zilch nada. It is the one way that people can make themselves informed when family communication falls apart.

        • Is that correct? Do people really have access to records of their family members? Could I legally find out for example, if and how many children my brother had, their names and so forth, if he wished to withhold that information from me? This is news to me.

          • Yes absolutely. As long as your parent named on your birth certificate is the same as one of his parents named on his birth certificate of course you do have the right to his records fair and square. His kid’s records too. His marriage certificate etc. This is really helpful when there is a family rumor that someone had an earlier marriage or may have other children. As long as they did the right thing and were named on the certificate you have the right to their records without any special permission. Now its harder when you don’t know their names or dates of birth but it can be researched some jurisdictions have the ability to search for all the docs your parent or brother was ever named on others don’t that is where someone like me comes in I do some research get you some names or dates and you go to vital records and request your copies.

          • Now wait – he can withhold the information from you as in not tell you sure. But you are free to seek out that information on your own and if you have some general idea of when that kid might be born there are avenues to get that info either through your vital statistics office or through a researcher and once you have a name or date of birth certainly you can get the record and all the info on it. Without asking him for it. Armed with your name and your childs date of birth your parents can get your kid’s birth record without your permission just because that is their grand kid.

            After 9/11 only family can get records. Use to be anyone could ask for a copy I could go get yours if I wanted back in 1999. With adoption it’s helpful cause family can of course get the original record but not the amended one. The original has a reg number on it that will match the amended one. Original records are not really sealed to anyone in the family but the person named on the certificate. They can’t get it because they can’t prove that they are that person. Sometimes an adopted person that knows what their real name was and what their mom’s name is can change their name legally get a new drivers license and ss card legit like simple name change takes about 6 months or so for all your records to line up then of course you can walk into the hosptial or vital statistics and ask for your birth record and the records of all your relatives too. You may have to dig to find out who they are but you are entitled to a copy of their records. That is the only way that an adopted person person will ever be able to have their genetic kinship legally recognized they have to change their name back to their family name so it looks like they were never adopted then they’ll qualify for benefits like if they want to attend their sibling’s funeral or if they want to claim an ill sibling as a relative dependant on their tax return. Stupid right? Their adoption is still valid because all they did was change their name. But to the common eye without looking at the amended certificate it would just look like they were never adopted they have their original certificate and a drivers license and ss card to match.

  12. Well, I get back from the Progress talk on gamete donors on Wednesday, and here we are in the middle of another heated discussion :-) Timely.

    There are ways to make it possible to acknowledge who the gamete donors are without creating legal parenthood. I’ve mentioned before that I think occasionally posters on this blog can be very US-centric and while that’s understandable, you don’t have to look too far to see how things are already being done differently from the US model (UK, Australia, Sweden…). The debate about whether parents tell their DC children or not has been going on for a long time and things do seem to be changing for the better, so it is possible.

    Need to have a cup of tea and a think, and will come back to this later.

    • I think it is clearly possible, as you say. And I think it might be a good thing. I do see that one issue will be controlling dissemination of information. In general we let legal parents decide what information kids have access to when and I think this sort of information would have to fall into that pattern. I know that many people do not trust the legal parents to do the right thing, but, as you say, the debate is not new and things do seem to be changing for the better.

      • agreed. there is no need to create a separate legal status if the concern is people getting the information about their genetic parents.

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