Saturday, September 30, 2006

"The Truth About Donor 1084" - SELF Magazine Article - October 2006 Issue

no. 276

"The Truth About Donor 1084" is a disturbing article to read and an important one among the articles being written about Donor Conception. It is one of the next generation of article being written to open the door beyond the happy stories of Donor 48QAH that present these stories as oddities and mere human interest. The Donor 1084 article begins to paint a picture for the public that borders if not crosses the line into criminal negligence and disregard for the children created by this process.

The stories of the families in this article are not as uncommon as you would think or hope and thankfully I can say my kids to date as well as "T" their half sibling are all healthy but as a parent of DI I cannot turn a blind eye as I want the banks to take responsibility and determine how these issues can be rectified.

I am not saying that I expect the banks to pony up funds to cover the medical expenses of these kids (although it is strong belief that they should if it can proven they had knowledge of any chance of xyz conditoin occuring) but at least they have to start changing their rules and contracts to allow more communication and info to flow and to make donors aware that they have a responsibility to these kids and that at a minimum to be honest and that to not do so can have repercusions.

Reform is needed. I don't have the answers but I know I want to be part of that equation. Stories like these just make me angry and my heart go out to these families.

If you can get to a library or a Barnes & Noble read the article and see if you don't feel just as angry.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Multnomah Oregon Mistake

I posted on the Annex an editorial posted by the Albany Herald Democrat where the writer calls for the case brought by the inadvertent donor to be thrown out. The editorial restates the facts well enough but in short the plaintiff produced sperm intended to impregnate his girlfriend but the hospital mistakenly used it to impregnate a married woman who was expecting an anonymous donor's sperm. The plaintiff donor is suing I guess to establish whether he is in fact the biological parent of the child created. (I will admit I am not sure what the current status of this child is and whether it is still a enbryo, fetus, viable birth, or even been born yet).

The editorial is interesting mostly as I see it as it lays out all the various issues that may exist and the rights as seen by the writer.

If I was the husband of the woman mistakenly inseminated I would certainly be upset that this was not the “donor” we selected and be fearful of what rights if any this plaintiff would want.

The article speaks to the fact that the hospital offered a free abortion. Yes a loaded issue if there ever was one. Would I consider it. Yes. But to be honest the child would be one half from my wife and again not from me so biologically it would be the same issues as the donor of choice but not the one we chose. Try eplainig that to the child a few years down the road. Well we wanted half of you.

What happened was obviously a mistake and a mistake that apparently the facility has taken steps to now avoid again. No degree of sperm bank reform could forsee this as this was a localized event but I bet it's happened more often than we know. It certainly adds fuel to those that call for DI to be abolished.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Revolution in Parenthood:The Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children's Needs

I have not read the below linked report. My understanding is that depending on the reader it may be seen as controversial and political in the sense that it was written and published by a group, the Institute for American Values, that is seen by some as leaning to one end of the spectrum as opposed to espousing positions that are more centrist. That is neither good or bad , or a judgment, just stating what is.

People I do respect on both sides have agreed that the report is worth reading despite its length (44 pages) and I plan to do so.

The Revolution in Parenthood:The Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children's Needs

An International Appeal from the Commission on Parenthood's Future. Elizabeth Marquardt, Principal Investigator.

A continuing discussion of the issue can be found at the Institute's blog titled within the category set up for it linked here. Again the views espoused at these site are those of the writers and not my own so I can't say I agree with all that is written or even what percentage of what is written but it is interesting reading.

Buffalo Girl, a donor conceived adult from here in the USA, who writes the blog “Whose Daughter?” was invited to speak in response to the report at the Eleventh Annual Institute For American Values Symposium on September 14, 2006 at The Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Her remarks can be found on her blog’s 9/27/2006 post.

I respect most of Buffalo Girl’s views and positions and encourage readers to visit her site for her remarks and in general as there are few blogs written and kept current from a US based donor conceived person.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Does My Half Sibling Have a Daddy?

Until now I have not named my children's half sibling and I am doing so by giving her a psuedo name as writing out half sibling is too much typing on my crackberry where I write most of these posts. So as of today she will be referred to as “T”.

Now onto today's post....

This morning my son asked me if T had a daddy. As soon as he asked this my wife from the next room yelled be careful how I answer this.

I replied simple that she did not have a daddy. I continued by stating that when her mommy decided she wanted a baby that she was single and that the donor's sperm helped her create T. I then stated that when his mommy wanted a baby that she was married to me his daddy and that the donor's sperm helped us create him and his sister.

He seemed to accept this.

Without giving me a second to decide if I answered this appropriately he then asked if he and T could get married. I said "no ... but hopefully someday she will attend your wedding".

If I last that long with all his questions.

Monday, September 25, 2006

More Letters to the Editor: Dilemmas and Dangers of Donor Conception

I have posted, on my Annex blog (linked above), copies of the letters published at the in tomorrow's, 9/26/06, edition.

The letters posted include that of two donor conceived individuals (including Rebecca Hamilton and Dr. Don Moody), a medical ethicist (Dr. Andrew Lawson) , and a leading rep of the Infertility Network UK (Sheena Young).

At this point by my count we have seen letters from all parties involved except that of the donors.

I am following this debate as it's interesting to see all sides. I don't expect anytime soon that donor anonymity will end here in the USA but if groups like the AATB and the ASRM start coming around to the base issues involved then perhaps serious legislation could be attempted.

Again I am not so much in favor of mandated abolition of donor anonymity but my primary concerns are more towards greater regulation and monitoring of the system we currently have to ensure the medical safety of the individuals created. That should be the primary issue in my mind. Yes the emotional is just as important but when I hear the stories of conditions and diseases that might have been caught due to screening limitations I cringe.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

More on Competing Rights: Donor vs. Conceived vs. Infertiles

The above post title links to this Blog's Annex where you can read two additional days of Letters to the Editors of the on this topic. Buffalo Girl of Whose Daughter and Tom Ellis let me know that additional letters had been posted by the Times including Tom's own response.

My own submission to the fray as the only responding DI parent is as follows (who knows if this letter will be accepted and posted by the Times so that is why I am posting here):

I have been reading all of the letters posted on this topic and as an American whose children were both conceived via an anonymous donor I am amazed. The US system being consumer based has not been forced into a position of outlawing the use of anonymous donors so I am reading these stories from a position where I am not affected and all too easily can comment without repercusions but here goes anyway.

Over the last two years that I have been following this topic I am amazed at how individuals like Colin Campbell (Sept 21) and Tim Hammond (Sept 23) can still make the argument that donor conceived individuals should accept the "be happy you are alive" argument as a prong on which to support their belief that the rights of the infertile parents trump that of the donor conceived.

As a parent whose kids are donor conceived I will work to fully ensure my kids have as much as possible about their past. To try now to turn back the clock to donor anonymity does future children conceived via DI a disservice and appears to me to border on criminal. It is true that donations have plummeted via the change in your laws but it appears to me that there have to be better avenues to increase donations than to just throw up yor hands and turn back the clock. For instance how about the UK government to provide more funding and staffing to the National Donor Gamete Trust. From what I understand you have a group whose mandate is to work in this area but without proper funding how can you expect results.

Again speaking as a parent who benefiited from donor sperm but now sees the bigger picture don't turn your back on these children and adults. No parent wants to cause their children harm, emotionally or otherwise, but to coopt their rights you would be doing just that.

Eric Schwartzman
New York, New York

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Competing Rights: The Conceived vs The Infertile (A Continuing Debate)

An age old argument raised against the premise of abolishment of anonymous donors is that the rights of the Infertile parents trump the rights of the unborn yet to be conceived children. To say it politely this is rubbish. To deny however that the UK abolishment of anonymity greatly affected sperm donations in the UK is also fantasy.

Colin Campbell, the former and founding chairman of the British Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) from 1990-1994, has again raised the issue in today's (9/21/2006) in a letter to the editor stating that the current policy is unfair to the infertile parents and their rights should be supreme. I think he's blind to reality that human beings are created that deserve more than this “be happy” you are alive argument. There are issues that must be addressed including the emotional well being and rights of the donor conceived and these issues should be paramount.

For new readers let me say I am not anti-DI. DI has given me two beautiful children and I would do it again if we could afford a third child. I am not pro-anonymity as I seen the results for some that were created via DI and will never have any knowledge of their biological and cultural past. I just believe there must be other ways to increase sperm donations than to imply that the human rights of the children are subservient and that anonymous donations are the cure. Max's Male Infertilty Awareness Campaign and the work of the National Gamete Donation Trust are examples of such good work. But more needs to be done.

I am sorry Mr. Campbell your argument just doesn't hold water. If you have another we'd be happy to hear it but this one is again simply rubbish and too easy to make.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What To Do With Extra Vials of Donor Sperm?

The question of the day since we are finally coming to terms that more children is not financially plausible is what to do with the extra vials of the donor's sperm.

We have it noted on the DSR that we have extra but the half siblings mom is also not planning to have more kids (that we know of) and there are no other half sibling families out there that we know of that might want them.

Do we sell them back to the Cryobank enabling other families to have kids from this donor? Do we destroy them? Do we submit them to research?

These questions don't rise to the level of controversy that families with frozen embryos have to deal with but like them we continue to pay yearly fees to store and maintain their viability. Not an easy decision.

The idea of taking one vial and having the DNA analyzed appeals to me and I am leaning in that direction for one vial. But the rest is still a mystery as to what we should do.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Making References to Half Siblings?

On my son's dresser are a couple of pages with pictures of himself, his sister and their half sibling. As he is only 4 years old he can't see these ppictures when standing directly next to the dresser but he can see them when he enters his bedroom or if he is standing on his bed.

The question I have is what is appropriate regarding how often parents should make reference to half siblings is simple conversation or under what circumstances. What is too much or too little?

My kids had a great time when they met their half sibling. And today my son asked when they would get to see her again. He doesn't refer to her as his half sibling or sister (we've never used that term regarding her) but simply by her name and always with a smile.

Occasionally we'll bring her name up to the kids depending on the circumstance. But we try to keep from overdoing it and at the same time because we are of different families there will be certainly periods of time that no reference is made whatsoever.

Was just curious what other families thought about this stuff. As I have said repeatedly because of this blog and related discussion groups etc this stuff is in my head too much.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Looking for DI Conceived Kids in NYC for Playdates?

A few weeks ago after seeing a post on the DSR_Discussion Yahoo group about a plan to stage a West coast gathering of DI families I proposed a concurrent East coast event. I have no experience planning events but threw my hat into the ring. Somehow I have a feeling this could snowball into something complicated but I hope not. The West coast event is planned for June 2007 and the email exchanges have proposed the East coast for August.

In advance of that I was wondering how many DI families are in NYC itself? I was thinking maybe doing something small with families maybe meeting on a perodic basis at the Central Park Zoo or other local venues so the kids have friends like themselves (conception story wise) so as they better understand this stuff they have their own built in network to discuss this stuff. But in the meantime the group for them would just add new friends.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Glasses in the DI Family?

Yesterday as I rode the bus home I saw a dad with a boy at his side on a street corner. I am assuming the boy was his son. I base this guess on the facts that they we were both wearing glasses and the man was holding the boy's hand. I always assumed that any kids we were to have would wear glasses as both my wife and I were them.

I actually don't recall if the donor wore / wears glasses. From a vanity and practical aspect it would be nice if the kids skipped this part of life. It was just so cute to see this child looking like a miniature version of his spectacled father. Part of me misses this possibility and part of me is hoping the donor's eyes are better than mine.

Monday, September 11, 2006

"Sperm Banks and Social Issues: Are We Going to Lead or Follow"

On Saturday, September 9, 2006, the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB) at their National Conference within their Reproductive Council Session included a subsession titled "Sperm Banks and Social Issues: Are We Going to Lead or Follow". The importance of this session cannot be understated because unless the Donor Conception community becomes politically active this organization along with the ASRM will most likely and does dictate how the industry will be self regulated absent national and local legislation. The long term is the protection of our children's rights and that means either forcing these organizations to accept our positions or to work with them to an agreeable set of regulations that are realistic.

Addressing the 30 or so Sperm Bank directors that attended was Mikki Morrissette, the author of Choosing Single Motherhood, and a Choice Mom herself of two donor conceived children. I first met Mikki at the 2005 Donor Conception seminar hosted by the Infertility Network. Mikki's own comments subsequent to her addressing the AATB can be found here at her new blog Choice Mom.

The agenda for the AATB session stated:

“At the conclusion of this program, participants should be able to identify critical social issues that will affect sperm banks in the area of public expectations by donors, recipients and donor children (i.e. release of donor identity to children, fascilitating donor-child contact, national archive for donor records, national donor registry for gamete donors and children, standards and guidelines to allow gay donors to become sperm donors beyond the known donor category).”

With all the media coverage in the last few months to two years the industry is beginning to take notice and unless they present themselves as both consumer and donor conceived friendly they risk outside regulation. But this risk is only tangible if the donor conception community increases the pressure and starts to make more noise before the banks come up with their own plans. The key to success may be working together and the fact that they invited Mikki to speak is an encouraging step.

For many there is an inherent mistrust of the cryobanks and that to go forward the banks will need to earn back the goodwill they desire from the community that relied on their assertions. But we must first bring ourselves to the table or rather first ensure the issues dictate that all sides are required to be part of the process and not decided only by one constituency.

The door is beginning to open let's not let it close in front of us.

My BR Windows used to view the Towers

Today is never a good day. On each anniversary the City gets a little jumpier, a little more on edge. Much of it we take in stride, the Presidential roadblocks, the National Guard in our trains stations, etc. But much of it we internalize and we just wait for the day to pass. Hoping nothing will happen.

Five years ago my wife was pregnant with our first child. Its amazing how much life has changed but more amazing how fast the old fears come back. Since we moved I don't even have a view of the lights and that I miss as well.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Coloring a Child's Interpretation of DI

Within the comments to my post "Donor as Genetic Parent" published 6 Sep 2006 "DD" asked:

"Wouldn't we already color a child's interpretation by telling them that there was a donor involved in the first place? What is inheretantly wrong with having a kind of "Ignorance is bliss" mentality, if you will?

Maybe I am debating the wrong issue or being premature in my concerns. We are wrestling with whether or not we make it known that a donor was involved, so maybe my concern/issue is moot. And it's not just the child resulting from donor (IF there's a child), but one biological child, that we have to consider."

My thoughts are that there is no "coloring" or undue infuence by telling a child or any donor conceived individual that they were conceived using donor conception. The information is theirs by right. To not tell and live with "Ignorance is Bliss", in my personal opinion, is setting up the child, upon subsequent discovery, to feel that they were directly lied to or at least lied to by the act of omission.

"How" a parent divulges the information can result in "coloring" by the parent's presentation. Children are very good at seeing the emotion or feelings we as parents have when we talk to them. If the parent feels ashamed at using DI the child will pick up on that and feel ashamed. The stigma will be reinforced and the child will forever feel different iin a negative manner. If a parent is truthful as to what brought them to the decision the child will see that love.

This is not to say the child will down the road be a DI proponent. As the child or individual gathers more info in their life their own opinions will form. But what I am saying is if we discount the process and the role of the donor we are pushing our own views and emotions onto the child and discounting their feelings and rights to have contrary views. Let the donor conceived come to their own conclusions.

How to deal with with these issues when there is already a biologcal child. Here I cannot speak from experience. Obviously both children should be shown equal amounts of love but that is easier said than done. I would counsel you that for advice of this nature you should turn to literature that deals with having bio and adopted children in one household.

Again my opinions.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Fwd: Donor as Genetic Parent?

I had thought the below post by Wendy Kramer to the DSR Yahoo group, a co-founder of the DSR, to be especially poignant in her appeal regarding this topic. I missed it when it was originally posted but ran across it while reading the blog Buffalo Girl, a donor conceived adult here in the US.

My own views in discussing the donor to my children have been probably around the norm that he helped create them but not too much more than that. I have never referred to him truly as a person that is walking, talking or somebody we could by wild chance run into on the street. At the pre-school age I have not wanted to confuse my kids. But Wendy's plea is important as it cautions parents to note that the decision as to how to process who the donor is to our children is that of the children as they grow older and better understand the circumstances of their conception and birth.

I will hopefully refer back to this post as a reminder to not oversimplify the role of the donor and to not over play the impact of my views on this topic when addressing it with my kids.

These are my personal views and may not be yours and I can respect that. The below post has been reprinted here with Wendy's consent.

--- In, Wendy Kramer on 08/21/2006 wrote:

For those of you who feel that an egg or sperm donation is simply a "cell", a small piece of genetic matter and nothing more, I beg of you to let your kids choose for themselves if this is how they too feel. I am afraid that a child brought up being told that their donor did nothing more than donate a "cell" may not feel fully able to express their own true thoughts, curiosities and feelings on the matter. Many of these kids will indeed view it as one half of their genetic background and heritage, much, much more than a "cell".

We have heard on the site over and over, older donor conceived persons who have a burning desire to know this invisible side of themselves. We have also heard story after story of donor conceived kids and adults connecting with their donor relatives, either half siblings or donors, and it being a profound and meaningful experience. These people are definately acknowledging avery important genetic bond.

Please parents, allow your kids to decide for themselves. Please do not set it up that somehow they will think they are hurting or betraying you to be curious about or value this genetic piece of themselves. (This is why 80-90% of heterosexual couples never tell their children that they are donor conceived- because of the associated fear and shame.) Just because parents feel one way about donor conception in no way guarantees that their children will feel the same way. Please let the discussion and decisions on genetic importance be child driven.

My goal with this forum is to help educate those of us who made decisions long before we were aware of the true ramifications, so that we can better serve the needs of not only our children, but those to come.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Genealogy: Sperm & Egg Donor Family Trees

It was only a matter of time that the Genealogy pages would begin to link into the donor coception community and specifically the DSR regarding searching for one's biological connections. The linked article ties both world's together prety neatly.

Currently the Family Tree Maker software version I have been using for years provides for natural or adopted children only. I am not even sure thinking about it they have a category for children by marriage much less children conceived donor conception.

The problem with such programs is they make the user choose a relationship and if the relationship is not always seen as "primary" as "natural" would be the secondary relationship has to have an override to ensure that it is shown. In other words a DI Dad may be greyed out by a preset programming command in favor of a donor. I thinks it's time to write a letter or tow to see how theat can be adjusted to include both as primary.

Friday, September 01, 2006