Tuesday, November 15, 2005

No longer anonymity with sperm donation?

I found a recent newspaper particularly interesting. A 15 yr old boy wanted to find his father, but he was the product of an anonymous sperm donation. Trying to explore as far as he could, he did what any good genealogist does. He started with what he has: his own Y chromosome.

Y chromosome analysis is a common test with new, specialized laboratories now devoted to conducting it. Many family associations involved with genealogy pool together to do studies to see if the Y chromosomes of their male members match or are similar. For example, using Y chromosome studies, labs can tell whether this Northern clan of Yahoocytes is related genetically to that Southern Yahoocyte family. Or if this stray Googlehorn stem belongs in the greater Googlehorn branch. If related, they'll discern how closely or distantly, depending on the mutations involved when compared to the anticipated frequency of mutations.

It is helpful for relations in general, but not necessarily in relationships, except, for example, if Junior doesn't match Senior, but the Mrs. really enjoyed her milk deliveries.

This 15 yo boy thought he might find the country of origin of his father, little more. His results, however, revealed two men, strangers to each other, who all had a 50% change sharing the same father, grandfather, or great grandfather. The men also had similar last names, but had different spellings, according to the findings in database at Family Tree DNA of Houston.

This bright 15 yo decided to take things a bit further. With the donor paperwork his mother received, he knew the birthdate of his father. He took his search to OmniTrace.com, obtaining a list of all the people born on that date.

You guessed it. One had the same surname as the two Y chromosome relations. He has contacted his father, but the details were not released.

Now there's a website paralleling the efforts of the still anonymous boy, Donor Sibling Registry, whereby information on donors is collected with the goal of matching up half-siblings from common donors.

Judging from what I read at the site, there are an awful lot of donors who were Ph.D. candidates or medical school interns. I figure this kid got a sizable chunk of his gray matter from daddy.

Of course, ethicists are split as to whether the interests of the boy (and other donor children) supersede that of the donor or whether this fiasco will unravel the entire donor community.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

This is such an interesting story. I'm pretty conflicted about what the policy should be on this.

As an adoptive mom, I know the value of understanding and knowing your biological connections. However, as a matter of public policy in order to keep sperm donations going, I understand the necessity of maintaining privacy of the donors.

Still, it's a great story. What a brain in that kid.

Orange said...

I'm completely torn. Both sides have their merits.

April said...

Wow. Amazing story. Like the other commenters, I see both sides to the story.

But wow.

Just wow.

Cricket said...

I agree that it is difficult on both sides, but I lean toward the donors. They had a contract; they followed the terms of it and others should as well.

Of course, as a biologist, genealogist, and parent, it is difficult for me to come down on the side of the donor, but I think it is only fair to follow through with the donor's intent. One could say that the child wrongly doesn't have a right to make a decision in this situation. However, the hard truth is that the child wouldn't be around to have a say at all if the donor didn't follow through on his end of the contract. To me, his contract is primary.

Reading at the donor sibling site, there were several donors who had notations about having fathered 20 or more kids. I'd be fearful as a donor about what those 20+ kids could come back and demand.

At the same time, the children that a donor chose to have in his personal life could make a rightful demand about getting to know the donors other children.


Donna said...

I wrote about this a while back, there's a new law in the UK that forces donors to give up their anonymity if the child wants the information. I think a contract is a contract. If you stipulate you don't want any contact, then that should be honored.