As you all know I’m a law professor and that means many of the folks I talk to are also law professors. Over the years I’ve had countless exchanges, some casual and some more in the nature of debates, about the value of anonymity for those who provide sperm and eggs to people doing ART. This remains a lively issue among academics.
It’s an important topic, both in terms of the big picture and for the individuals most directly affected. It’s also one where my own views have changed dramatically over the years and are, I imagine, still evolving. This probably makes it especially interesting to me.
Yet it seems to me that questions about the value of anonymity and the ways in which the law should/should not protect/promote it are being outflanked by reality. Which brings me to this blog post. It’s by Wendy Kramer, a co-founder of Donor Sibling Registry (DSR). Continue reading
It’s not me having second thoughts–sorry if that heading mislead you. A couple of different things have gotten me thinking about gamete providers and second thoughts.
First there is this decision–a significant one, I think–from Illinois. It’s been in the newspapers, but you can read the actual opinion as well. It’s long and deserving of some real consideration. (I’ve also written about it before at an earlier stage of the proceedings.) For my purposes here, though, I’m not going to dwell on the opinion. (I’ll do that another day, soon I hope.) A bare-bones version of the facts will do.
Karla Dunston and Jacob Szafranski were dating. Karla was facing chemotherapy that would very likely destroy her ability to produce eggs. I think this was before the days of reliable egg freezing, but whether this is true or not, Karla thought to preserve her genetic material by having the eggs fertilized and then freezing the pre-embryos. To do this, she needed sperm. She asked Jacob if he would provide the sperm. He agreed to do so. Continue reading
The last post here was about the problem of accidental incest. (Do note the word “accidental” because it is critical–I’m not talking about deliberate, knowing incest.) There are some interesting comments so I thought I’d do another post on the subject, partly to sort out threads and perhaps also to move a bit further along the line here.
I’ll start with a recap of what I meant to be my main point from the last post: Why is the specter of accidental incest troubling? I suppose this is a variation, albeit a significant one, on the question “what’s wrong with incest?” (Understanding why accidental incest is troubling is important to me as I consider what to do about it.)
There are (at least) two non-exclusive answers. Continue reading
Long-time readers may recall that I have written a number of times about reports of a sperm shortage in the UK. (This is the most recent post–from 2012–and it links to many older ones.) I’ve always been skeptical about the existence of this sperm shortage since the actual number of donors (as they are called) was increasing. It is, of course, possible to have more donors and still have a shortage–if demand increases at an even more rapid rate, say. But the reporting on all this was so inept that it was actually very hard to tell what lead to the reports of shortage.
In any event, it’s time to revisit this story in light of this report. Far from a shortage, now there is apparently a “boom” in sperm donations. (It’s important to note, though, that this story is sourced to a single sperm bank–the London Sperm Bank. But the idea of an increase in donors does seem to be born out in the official statistics, which are apparently only available through 2010.)
The thing that interests me most here isn’t just the question of whether there is a decreasing or increasing supply of sperm (or number of donors). Continue reading
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. Continue reading
My last post was about a Canadian case I’ve been following from some time–a case in which Olivia Pratten sought access to identifying information about the sperm donor use in her conception. The British Columbia Court of Appeals rejected her claim. There’s further coverage of the case (and fairly critical coverage) here.
As I think about it a bit more, it might be important to distinguish between two slightly different arguments Pratten has offered. First, you could argue that whatever the rights of adopted and donor conceived people are, they must be treated the same. I’ve written elsewhere about the sameness/difference of adopted and donor conceived people. I think it’s complicated. (The post I have linked to was spurred by the lower court opinion in Pratten’s case.)
There are arguments for sameness and there are also arguments for difference. Continue reading
It’s a very busy week for me, isn’t it? For a long time now I’ve been following a case pursued by Oliva Pratten. There’s an important new development in the case.
Pratten was born in 1982. Her mother conceived using sperm from an anonymous donor. As an adult and with the support of her parents, she sued to obtain identifying information about that donor. Though it wasn’t clear she could actually get any information herself given the passage of time, her case had broad implications for donor-conceived people more generally. There’s a new ruling in her case–one that reverses an earlier judgment in Pratten’s favor. (You can read earlier blog posts for background. I should probably do that, too.) Continue reading
Again I digress (and postpone engaging with comments for a little bit) to cover a story from the issue of Time Magazine on newsstands now. You must be a subscriber to read the article on-line, but you can read about it here and here. I read it in the print edition. The story is by Jay Newton-Small and it is worth trying to get a copy of it to read. The snippets you can get access to give you the main point of the story.
Here’s the bottom line: The US has become sperm exporter to the world. Newton-Small attributes US dominance in the field to “quality control and wide product selection.” I want to think about both of these but I’ll take them in reverse order.
The product selection: Because the US population is diverse, the pool of sperm providers here is diverse. Continue reading
I am digressing from my current topic for a moment because these two stories, both from The Telegraph (UK) happened across my desk (screen?) this morning. One is a story of sperm donation some time ago, the other is quite contemporary.
Then: Bertold Weisner and his wife, Mary Barton, ran a fertility clinic in London starting in the 1940s. Two men conceived at the clinic (Barry Stevens and David Gollancz) made a movie about the clinic. They discovered that Weisner used his own sperm at the clinic with alarming frequency. Indeed, they estimate that Weisner had between 300 and 600 offspring. Continue reading
So as I noted at the end of last week, I have come across a very rich and recent study by the Evan B. Donaldson Institute called “Openness in Adoption: From Secrecy and Stigma to Knowledge and Connections.” It’s particularly timely, given the discussion of what the history of adoption can teach us about anonymity and gamete donors, but it provides answers to some questions I have long wondered about.
The sameness/difference I refer to in the title of this post refers to the relationship of adoption to use of third-party gametes. For me, this is where the conversation started. But of course, adoption (and what we have learned about it) is important in its own right, too.
As I look at the report, I thought the first thing I’d do was to note some of the things that strike me and seem to me as equally pertinent to the third-party gamete questions. Later I can talk about differences. Continue reading