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Donor insemination and the dilemma of the “unknown father”.

By Eric Blyth


As has been the pattern worldwide, the provision of donor insemination (DI) - and\ud subsequently other forms of donor conception - in the UK has traditionally been\ud characterised by withholding the identities of donors and recipients and of donors\ud and their donor-conceived offspring from each other. Furthermore, recipients of\ud donor gametes were frequently advised not to tell anyone, including their children,\ud of their recourse to donor conception.1 Inter-related factors promoting such practices\ud include:\ud • the dubious legal and moral status of donor conception (including explicit\ud disapproval from several major world religions) – with consequent concerns\ud about the impact on the child and other family members if knowledge of\ud donor conception became “common knowledge”.2\ud • suspicions about sperm donors’ personality and motivation.3\ud • recipients’ ambivalence about the use of donor conception – especially DI.4\ud • uncertainties about the impact on the child of knowledge of the circumstances\ud of their conception (or assumptions that such knowledge would be\ud damaging).5\ud • uncertainties about the donor’s legal or financial responsibilities towards the\ud child and to protect them from unintended/undesired contact or responsibilities.\ud 6\ud • uncertain legal status of the child – and fears of prosecution/conviction for\ud falsification of birth registration information.7\ud • stigma associated with male infertility in particular and families desires - and\ud the opportunity - to “pass as normal”.8\ud • potential consequences of the parents’ imbalanced genetic relationship with\ud the child and fears of the child’s rejection of the non-genetic parent.9\ud • fears of unwanted intrusion by the donor in family affairs.10\ud • initial reliance on fresh sperm, requiring management of the geographical\ud and temporal proximity of donor and recipient.11\ud • parents’ uncertainties about the timing and method of telling their child and\ud the lack of information to give the child, making “not telling” – at least superficially\ud - an easier option.12\ud • physicians’ concerns about their potential exposure to critical external scrutiny,\ud including risk of claims of unprofessional/illegal practice.13\ud • need to maintain donor services in the face of the assumed adverse impact\ud of disclosure on supply.1

Topics: HQ, H1
Publisher: Universitätsverlag Göttingen
Year: 2008
OAI identifier:

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