Friday, March 10, 2006

Television Interviews: Sensationalism vs. Education

Throughout the last several months Donor Conception has been a hot topic for the print and television media. The television interviews I have seen all seem to sensationalize the topic and to push the point that the donors are the fathers (in the case of DI) pushing aside the social relationship of the donor conceived persons to their DI dads. Again I am not disputing the fact the donor is the biological parent to these individuals and children. But as much as biology is responsible for creating the individual, the love and years of caring and support given by the social parent helped mold the child into the adult they grow into (in addition to the donor's genetics).

Based on those actions the social parent should be the individual bestowed with the title Father or Dad, they earned it. While the donor is indispensable he will never be more than the biological creator unless the donor conceived person wants him to be more which is their right. For TV shows to keep pushing the term Father to represent the donor only contributes to the sensationalism these shows create showing the DC individuals as more oddities than individuals who are looking for answers.

It is my understanding that "The Big Idea" with Donny Deutsch has taped an episode that has either ran or is scheduled to run regarding donor conception. One of the guests is Rebecca Hamilton of New Zealand, whose documentary filmed search for her donor, helped end donor anonymity in her native country.

Ms. Hamilton on numerous occasions has made it clear that her social father was her dad and she is not looking to replace him nor is she looking to find her donor to request financial assistance or anything of that nature. According to a recent post (3/8 Message # 6328) by Ms. Hamilton, on the main DSR yahoo discussion groups, she felt she needed to clarify her own statements, made on "The Big Idea", regarding using DC to perhaps conceive her own children as she felt her own words may have been twisted or edited turning them to a different meaning. Such is the nature of these television shows that try to sensationalize this topic rather than adding to real discussion on this topic. I have not seen the episode so I can't say how the finished episode comes off and whether Mr. Deutsch's editors should be blamed or praised.


Rel said...

i think the bigger problem with the media, well here in Australia anyway, is all the feel good stories that ignore the real issues surrounding DC.

There are some better ones around lately, which is a relief, but seeing stories that are so blatantly an advertisement for clinics makes me furious. They only care about the money and the media just want the happy snap to go with their byline.

rant over :p

MAX said...


I personally can't remember ever watching something on TV with a "feel good" approach about DI. That said I don't watch that much TV in general. ;)

The show on the ABC about DI was in my opinion somewhat dramatised not so much in the content but in the way it was presented. The donor interviewed with his face and body hidden in the shadows was a poor cinematographic cliche and a way of portraying shame. They also only discussed extreme cases of Donors whom in the past donated up to 300 gametes.

There was no representation from an heterosexual couple TTC via DI and no discussion about the dilemna of male infertility.

To me a good documentary is one that remains neutral and shows both pros and cons of a situation without using overly dramatic effects in order to give the story more appeal within the general population.

Even if there is a majority of DC persons for who's conception is an issue, the opposite side of the argument ought to be given just as much attention in order to keep a balance and give the viewer the chance to make her or his own mind.

biodad said...

As a former donor with very strong views on the denial of patriality which donor insemination entails - both as an
accepted medical procedure for 'curing' (male) infertility) and as what is essentially a half-adoption - this is how I respond to your reflections on your position as 'father/dad'.

Whilst I recognize the tremendous generosity which it must take on the social parent's part to raise another man's children as if they were his own ultimately, from my perspective as the biological father, although I cannot deny his role as parent to my children I believe there is some justification for me to regard him rather as 'step-father' to my children - albeit an (hopefully) extremely loving and attentive one. In the instance where my children have been informed of their true biological origins from an early age I think this man's fathering role at least deserves to be acknowledged by me in this way.

On the other hand, in the far more prevalent circumstance where the child has been raised in ignorance of their true origin, the only term I can think of to describe the person who raises my children in this case would be 'imposter', since that child is undeniably a victim of calculated paternity fraud.

In the case of intentional father deletion as practised by SMBC's and lesbian couples all I can say is that this represents the ultimate expression of selfishness whereby a child is conceived merely to satisfy what they perceive as their own perceived reproductive rights(?) at the expense of the over-riding genetic and human rights of the Being they are actually creating.

No one should be given that much power over another.

DI_Dad said...

Michael -

Understanding your position as a former donor who sought out contact with his biological offspring I can see each of your points and I recognize them.

I say "offspring" deliberately as until a former donor and the offspring develope a mutual social relationship I believe there to be no social familial titles applicable and I will tend to use the more technical terms. Forgive me this for the moment, as I understand you and your biological DI conceived children have now begun to build those valid relationships.

What I appreciate, from your point of view, is your recognition of me as a father, albeit a step-father, in your terminology based on my informing my children or rather my committment to tell them (they are toddlers so at this point my saying I told them is obviously not enough). What I believe inaccurate but I will agree for now to label as semantics, due to our different points of view, is my not being accorded a slightly higher status of father above step-father.

I say this from the perspective that until my children can consciously make their own decisions how they will process the biological vs social realities I am to them their only father, albeit socially, and to tell them otherwise would be at their current ages cruel. If they seek out their donor and begin the realtionship you are beginning with your bio-kids, children, then they (my kids) can and will use what terms they wish to and I will obviously agree to their wishes.

My basis for this is looking at individuals like Bec Hamilton, referring to the base blog post which was more about sensationalism then our current terminology discussion, who has stated that her social dad was her dad and that the donor is her donor and she is not looking to replace the role her dad played in her life. I grant you that if and when she ever finds that donor she may find she then would want more. That is her right and her decision not yours or mine to decide her terminology for her just as my kids socially see me acting as a dad, their dad, whether I am their biological sire or not it does not yet matter to them. But again it may and I grant you that. But to be fair and honest I hope you can grant me that their futures are up to them not us to label.

- Eric

lia said...

Just wanted to point out that Michael did not 'seek out' contact with his dc children.

He bought a newspaper he never buys (sychronisity) and saw a headline on the front page "The Children of Forgotten Fathers" and then recognised the girl in the photo as his daughter (she was seeking her donor).

He subsequently did what every decent human being should do, he gave Myf his contact details. He then followed his heart and left the door wide open for an enduring, loving relationship. It was all natural.

No one can say how they are going to feel about their donor before they meet them, but usually a very deep, intense relationship takes place (as with adoption) and whether the relationship continues successfully depends largely on how these two people (as well as their respective brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, social parents, children, grandparents etc.) manage to negotiate the intensity of the situation.

When you say you would like a slightly higher status than 'step father' you hit the nail right on the head. This whole issue is all about status and confusion around status (I think once you recognise this you can then go on to recognise that 'status' is quite superficial while love is important). I, for example, would have loved step-mother status, but that is the legal right of Myf's 'dads' wife.

After four years of negotiating our (loving) relationship I am simply content to have Myf and her brother (Michael) in my life and to know that we really care deeply about each another.

Whilst in the beginning it was very crowded and difficult, we are all very comfortably accommodated now in what Myf refers to as our unusual cobbled together family.

Both Myf and her brother have gone to extraordinary lengths to make their 'dad' secure. They have so much love and loyalty towards him and Michael could not, even if he tried, come between these two people and their dad who raised them, schooled them, guided them through life and loves them deeply.

I think that the donor concieved people are labelled from the time of their conception because they are being placed in a potentially emotionally explosive situation. This is why Michael would never encourage men (or women) to donate, because it is not fair to place the resulting children into this situation.

Already your childrem are subliminally dealing with your insecurities around your parental status. Just remember... love is the only law.

Rel said...

Hi :)

"I personally can't remember ever watching something on TV with a "feel good" approach about DI. That said I don't watch that much TV in general. ;)"

Maybe it's just here in Australia? I am sure there are cases of it in other parts of the world. What i am referring to are the articles and stories that focus on the "gift of life/miracle babies/generous donors.." etc. Here there are so many stories about the marvel of IVF and donor assisted births, and little to do with the issues that i classify as the "real" issues, i.e. what happens after the baby grows up!

You are so right that the issue of male and female (for that matter!) infertility is not discussed and i think this is a huge problem. Often i think that couples go into donor programs without having dealt with their infertility, which can have negative impacts on the resulting child. I am not saying this happens in all cases, but it is definately an issue of concern to me. There needs to be more education to help remove or at least ease the stigmas associated.

I just wish (and perhaps selfishly so) that there were more donor conceived people who knew the truth so that they could also speak about their experiences. Even then, like i have mentioned in the past of those who do find out i am not sure how many would be willing to go against the grain, if you know what i mean.

MAX said...

Hi Rel,

You quoted from my post and I am in Australia!:P

To be honest, you are more likely to be aware of stories about DI etc, on my part I've only started reading and watching stuff from August last year when I found out about my infertility.

In that time, I have noticed that there seems to be a turn around in terms of IVF, I have heard and read a few stories warning people who wishes to have babies in later years for social reasons that IVF is certainly not as easy as it may have been portrayed at an earlier stage.

I also believe that there is a need for more education. They make it sound so simple, one egg, one sperm and voila !
I grew up with the idea that having a kid was easy, there is so much stuff on TV in regards to wearing a condom not only for safeguarding against STDs but also to avoid unwanted pregnancy, surely if we can talk about these issues on national TV, then I don't see why infertility and DI cannot have the same status.

Also I wish that there was more DC people involved within DI programs.
Perhaps counselling ought to be given by a panel of people including a medical professional, a parent of DC children, a donor and a DC person. Obviously they would all have to be willing to reach a common ground and not preach to the infertile but inform them and help them with their decisions.

That may be just utopia but I think that we need to break through the feelings of fear, shame and blame before we can truly assist others like ourselves and that is not just in regards of infertile people but for people like you as well.

For as long as there is going to be a wall of blame and fear between our two points there cannot be any progress made.