Thursday, June 01, 2006

Real Debate re Donor Conception Currently in Australia

To date I have not seen nor heard of any true debate in the United States regarding Donor Conception. Sure most of the major new programs, mostly television, have run segments on siblings finding each other through the Donor Sibling Registry, or even sperm donors stepping forward like Donor 48QAH to acknowledge the gift (albeit paid) they provided to families (however you define them) wanting to have children. But few of these programs have gotten into the true meat of the two major issues: (1) health issues and (2) identity loss.

In Australia the issue gaining the most attention currently is the effects of the current laws regarding anonymity and right of first contact. As of July 1st this year donors have the right to initiate contact via letters being sent by the government to the families of donor conceived individuals born after 1988 (I believe) when a donor has indicated to the government agency they, the donor, is interested in contact.

This has ignited a thunderstorm of activity by groups like the Aussie DCSG advocating that parents tell their children of their conception if they have done so already to avoid their teenagers coming home to find the letter waiting to be opened in the post box and for these young adults to learn this information via a piece of paper rather than from their parents. There is currently a movement to reform the legislation in Victoria to require that contact can only be initiated by the donor conceived and not via the donors as a result.

Two nights ago, May 30, 2006, on the Australian TV show Insight there was a discussion / debate where the program brought together donors, donor conceived individuals, parents and industry reps to discuss many of theses issues. Check it out at these links video, article, transscript.

My own views at this point are that the donor conceived individuals should have the right of first contact. For better or worse the donors gave up that right at the point they donated. Yes, they should register and their info be available when and if the donor conceived individuals come looking but the right of first contact, as it should apply to the Australian scenario, in my mind should be left with the children or adults conceived via donor conception.


Michael said...

Hi Eric
Section 77 of the Victorian Infertility Treatment Act 1995 and its earlier manifestation as the Medical Procedures (Infertility) Act 1988 gives donors the right to initiate contact with their biological children when that child becomes legal adult at age 18.
I believe this part of the Act was originally framed in order to give donor
fathers the same rights which had just been granted given in the 1980s in our State to relinquishing parents in the case of adoption i.e. the ability to make themselves known to their bilogical children. In the context of donor conception I believe this was a very far-sighted piece of legislation.
Unlike yourself I think it should be retained despite the efforts of the fertility clinics here to see it overturned.
As well as equating DC with adoption, the legislation also serves as the only part of the IT Act which might make recipient parents think twice about deceiving or continuing to deceive their DC child as to its true genetic history.
Due to extensive counter-lobbying by both governmental and non-governmental adoption organisations it now seems extremely unlikely that the medical fraternity will win the day in seeing section 77 rescinded. Hurray!

- Michael

MAX said...


This law is not for the whole of Australia, it's only for the state of Victoria. I'm in New South Wales so it doesn't apply to my potential future children at this point in time.
Give us a few more years and Australia will soon become a dictature, at this rate it won't be long before it becomes law to have the word "infertile" tattooed on our forearm.

DI_Dad said...

Michael - I understand your points and I now better understand the genesis of the act but I still think the first steps shoudl be up to the donor conceived individuals themselves to seek out the contact. I agree that DI parents should not hide the truth of a child's conception but where they have the Victoria act as it now stands can result in effectively traumatizing the young adult who finds a letter stating the truth.

The DI parent's decision, while I disagree with it, to not tell, is not done maliciously. I guess the end result of much of this will be that a greater number of Victoria DI conceived young adults will be told by their parents for fear of the letter scenario I describe leading to lies being exposed.

To Michael and DD - Thanks for clearing up my misunderstanding that this law only applies in Victoria.

- Eric

- Eric

Michael said...

DD, your comment re tattooing 'infertile' immediately reminded me of a young donor conceived person of my acquaintance who is so pissed off about his personhood being treated like a commodity that he has had a bar-code tattooed on his neck!
The same young man has developed serious issues of criminality and hard drug addiction which I think can in no small way be attributable to the circumstances of his birth and the family secrecy surrounding his conception.

Michael said...

Eric, I agree with you that decisions not to disclose are not necessarily motivated by malice. In fact i am inclined to think that the main reason is that the recipients have an overriding compulsion to PRETEND that the child is 100% biologically their own despite everything they know to the contrary.
Also, the experience in the adoption sector here in Victoria of belatedly informing adoptees of their status by way of government agencies does not seem to support the assertion that such interventions are overall traumatic. In fact, many people express relief that finally they understand why there has been such a disjunction in their lives between what they intuitively felt about their selfhood as opposed to what was being presented to them within the nexus of their adoptive family.

Rel said...

I think that saying that it should be left to the DC person to initiate contact sounds great, in a perfect world where all DC people know the truth about their origins to begin with.. However, i think that given the statistics of the high amount of DC people still unaware of their true birth origins that it's much better that they find out the truth SOONER rather than later. I know of DC people who have found out about their origins in their 40s and 50s. Can you imagine that? They were grandparents for crying out loud.

If parents are not going to be honest with their own children about something as fundemental as their true birth origins and their identity, then some one should! As i stated on the show, it is much better to find out via a letter than to find out in the midst of an argument or say after the death of a parent. This happens and it is really damaging!!! Far more so than a letter.

And i believe that if you find out later in life, no matter how you are told you will always remember it, as clear as anything. The ITA has done a lot of hard work to make sure that this is handled as best as possible. Considering that the legislation was in place when people went for treatment, there should be no issue now. People were counselled and told about these possibilities. It is not new legislation, it's just that people chose to forget about it until now, when it is most crucial.

The ITA have a team of counselors and amazing people to help all parties involved. I think this is great!!! It's much better than when i found out at 15 and had NO ONE to talk to.

If parents were honest with their children, then their would be no need for letters. If there is no honesty the ADULT donor conceived person has a RIGHT to know who they are!!!!!! There are no buts about it.

Michael said...

I second that emotion

- Michael

MAX said...

My personal opinion is that while I understand your point of view, I do not believe that it is the best approach. Besides laws like that are truly pointless for future generations.

If I lived in Victoria and was planning to use DI but didn't want to tell my child, all I would need to do is travel to Danemark for say and have my insemination done there. There would therefore be no records in Australia identifying my child as being DC !

That's what a lot of swedish folks do apparently since similar laws have been introduced in their countries..

I don't believe in the big stick approach. Education and support will go a lot further.

Rel said...

Laws like that are pointless??? Are you kidding?

Of course there's always a way around laws... there is a blackmarket for everthing nowadays, but that doesn't mean that there shouldn't be appropriate laws enforcing WHAT IS RIGHT and MORAL. It's like saying hey let's not have any laws on illicit drugs, because you know people can get them off the street anyway!!

In my opinion such laws shape community attitude and encourage honesty, in the face of this secret and discriminatry practice and industry.

If parents are not going to tell their children that they were conceived in such a manner that the government has aided, then it is the responsibility of the government to inform these people. Someone has to be bloody responsible for making fraudulent birth certificates and lying to people about their identity!!

I don't understand why people think it's ok for such a crime against humanity to ocur.... We are the donated generation and barely anyone seems to care.

One person here in Victoria complained about tax payers money being spent on the public education campaign. Well sorrrrry!!!! I nearly choked on my tea when i heard that. It seems that people only care about an issue when it serves themselves. Heaven forbid people know the truth about who they are. And heaven forbid the government rectify such a social and human experiment gone wrong.

My apologies for the emotion......

After 8 years of searching for my father I can't seem to understand why nobody out there sees the clarity of it all.....