Cynthia Daily and her partner used donated sperm to conceive a baby seven years ago, and they hoped that one day their son would meet some of his half siblings – a sort of extended family. Ms Daily searched a web-based registry for other children with the same father and created an online group to track them. There are now 150 children, all conceived with sperm from one donor and more are on their way.
As more women use artificial insemination, oversized groups of donor siblings are starting to appear. Ms Daily’s group is among the largest, but many others with 50 or more half siblings are appearing on websites and in chat groups, where sperm donors are tagged with unique identifying numbers.
This may not be news to readers of BioEdge, but it has finally reached the pages of the New York Times in a recent feature which highlights growing concern among donors, medical experts and parents. There are a number of hazards to having so many children fathered by the same donors, including the possibility that genes for rare diseases could spread more widely, and increased odds of accidental incest between half sisters and half brothers, who often live close to one another.
“My daughter knows her donor’s number for this very reason,” the mother of a teenager conceived using sperm donation in California – who asked not to be identified to protect her daughter’s privacy – told the New York Times. “She’s been in school with numerous kids who were born through donors. She’s had crushes on boys who are donor children.”. Critics say fertility clinics and sperm banks earn huge profits by allowing too many children to be conceived with sperm from popular donors, and that families should be given more information on the health of donors and the children conceived with their sperm. They are also calling for legal limits on the number of children conceived using the same donor’s sperm and a re-evaluation of the anonymity that cloaks many donors.
“We have more rules that go into place when you buy a used car than when you buy sperm,” said Debora L. Spar, of Barnard College and author of “The Baby Business: How Money, Science and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception.”
Wendy Kramer, founder of the Donor Sibling Registry, had her son via a sperm donor and founded the registry in 2000 to bring together so-called “donor families”. She said that some sperm banks in the US have treated donor families unethically and that new legislation is in order. “Just as it’s happened in many other countries around the world,” she said, “we need to publicly ask the questions ‘What is in the best interests of the child to be born?’ and ‘Is it fair to bring a child into the world who will have no access to knowing about one half of their genetics, medical history and ancestry?’ These sperm banks are keeping donors anonymous, making women babies and making a lot of money. But nowhere in that formula is doing what’s right for the donor families.” ~ New York Times, Sep 5