ArticlePDF Available

Abstract

This study explores the attitudes and experiences of 57 sperm donors who responded to a survey posted online in the United States and indicated that they had had contact with their donor-conceived offspring or the parents of their donor-conceived offspring. On average, 18 years had elapsed since the respondents donated sperm. In the interim between donating and having contact with offspring, most had become curious about their offspring. Most made contact through a bank or online registry. Most respondents had communicated with at least one offspring at least once and most had exchanged photos with offspring. Approximately two-thirds had met in person once; the same proportion had communicated over email or text. Other forms of communication were less common. Almost half of the respondents now considered their donor-conceived offspring to be like a family member. At the same time, donors are respectful of the integrity of the family in which their offspring were raised. Donors with contact are open to having their partners and children know their donor-conceived offspring. Although contact is generally positive, donors report that establishing boundaries and defining the relationship can be very difficult. Some donors also urge those who are thinking of donating to consider the consequences and some suggest avoiding anonymity. There were no significant differences in attitudes and experiences between those who donated anonymously and those who had been identity-release for their offspring when they turned 18.
91
Introduction
As the culture surrounding donor insemination
evolves, the issues of whether donors are open to
being identied to, and having contact with, donor-
conceived (DC) offspring have become central.
Anonymity, once an unquestioned aspect of gamete
donation, is no longer presumed, as several countries
now require that donors be willing to be identied
when offspring come of age (Blyth and Landau,
2004; Blyth and Frith, 2009; Allan, 2012).
Until recently the movement to end anonymity
has primarily rested on arguments concerning the
interests of DC offspring and their parents although
it has also been argued that donors should be granted
a right to at least some information about the
offspring conceived as a result of their donations
(Raes et al., 2013). Aside from abstract arguments
about rights, the voices of gamete donors have
rarely been heard (Daniels et al., 2012). In general,
research shows that donors are less interested than
are DC offspring and recipients of donor gametes in
knowing the identity of, providing information to,
and making contact with the other (Purewal and van
den Akker, 2009; Rodino et al., 2011; Van den
Broeck et al., 2013). Not surprisingly, then, studies
suggest that gamete donors are neither uniformly in
favor of recipients having access to information
about them (Broderick and Walker, 2001;
Hammarberg et al., 2014) nor uniformly interested
in meeting DC offspring (Daniels et al., 2005; Riggs
and Russell, 2011). There also appear to be
differences between oocyte and sperm donors with
the latter demonstrating a higher level of interest in,
and potential sense of responsibility for DC
offspring (Lampic et al., 2014).
Sperm donors describe the experience of contact with their
donor-conceived offspring
R. HeRtz1, M.K. NelsoN2, W. KRaMeR3
1Department of Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA 02481, USA.
2Department of Sociology, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT 05753, USA.
3Donor Sibling Registry, Box 1571, Nederland, CO 80466, USA.
Correspondence at: mnelson@middlebury.edu
Abstract
This study explores the attitudes and experiences of 57 sperm donors who responded to a survey posted online in
the United States and indicated that they had had contact with their donor-conceived offspring or the parents of
their donor-conceived offspring. On average, 18 years had elapsed since the respondents donated sperm.
In the interim between donating and having contact with offspring, most had become curious about their offspring.
Most made contact through a bank or online registry. Most respondents had communicated with at least one
offspring at least once and most had exchanged photos with offspring. Approximately two-thirds had met in
person once; the same proportion had communicated over email or text. Other forms of communication were less
common. Almost half of the respondents now considered their donor-conceived offspring to be like a family
member. At the same time, donors are respectful of the integrity of the family in which their offspring were raised.
Donors with contact are open to having their partners and children know their donor-conceived offspring.
Although contact is generally positive, donors report that establishing boundaries and defining the relationship can
be very difficult. Some donors also urge those who are thinking of donating to consider the consequences and some
suggest avoiding anonymity. There were no significant differences in attitudes and experiences between those who
donated anonymously and those who had been identity-release for their offspring when they turned 18.
Key words: Anonymity, assisted reproduction, donor-conceived offspring, offspring, sperm donors.
Facts VieWs Vis obgyN, 2015, 7 (2): 91-100 Original paper
hertz-.indd 91 30/06/15 10:21
92 Facts VieWs Vis obgyN
not all occasions of contact are sought after, or
mutually desired, by both sides.
Methods
Data Collection
The survey from which these data come was online,
hosted by WorldApp’s KeySurvey, from May 12,
2014 to August 15, 2014. Invitations to the survey
for gamete donors were sent via email to all
members of the Donor Sibling Registry as well as to
a variety of other organizations and details of the
study were available on the DSR website on an
open-access Webpage. Information about the survey
was also posted on Craigslist in four large urban
areas as well as on several other websites and
several Facebook groups asked people to participate.
Ethical approval for this study was obtained from
the Institutional Review Boards at both Middlebury
College and Wellesley College.
It is impossible to calculate a response rate for
this survey because it was made available at so
many different locations. The DSR recorded how
many of those who received the email invitation
actually opened it; the “open” rate was approximately
36%. Among all gamete donors, 96% of those who
opened the email clicked on to the survey and of
those 91% actually completed the survey. Web
surveys generally have relatively low response rates
(Couper, 2000; Monroe and Adams, 2012; Wright,
2005) and concerns about response rates have to be
weighed against the advantages of trying to reach a
generally hard to reach population such as gamete
donors (Freeman et al., 2009).
Participants
This study draws initially on the 145 sperm donors
who responded to the survey and who indicated that
they had an interest in contact with their donor-
conceived offspring or had already had that contact.
Eighty-three percent of these donors received the
survey through the DSR. There were no statistically
signicant differences between the respondents
who came through the DSR and those who came
through some other route in key demographic
variables such as current age, percent living with a
partner of the other sex, and percent who were
Caucasian. Nor were there any statistically
signicant differences between these two groups of
respondents in terms of variables related to donating
such as number of years they donated, percent
offered a choice about what kind of donor to be, and
percent who were anonymous donors at the time of
donation.
Research by van den Akker et al. (2014) indicates
that sperm donors may search out DC offspring
for a variety of reasons. Only a very few studies
have examined the actual experience of contact
between donors and offspring. Drawing on a small
sample recruited through the Donor Sibling Registry
(DSR), a U.S.-based world-wide registry that helps
DC individuals search for and establish mutual
consent contact with their donor and donor siblings
(i.e. half-siblings), Jadva et al. (2011) reported
positive and regular contact among donors who had
contact with their offspring. Subsequently Daniels
et al. (2012) reported on data collected from
164 semen donors also recruited through the DSR.
Although initially anonymous donors, almost all
were now open to, or had already had contact with
offspring. At the time of the study the 33 donors
with contact reported that they felt “close” to the
offspring and especially so if they had met them.
They also reported that what had been most
challenging was “the adjustment to the relationship
and issues within the donor’s own family”
(Daniels et al., 2012). More recently, Kirkman et al.
(2014) found that among 10 formerly anonymous
donors in Australia the experience of contact ranged
widely from no relationship to a close personal
relationship.
This study expands on these prior studies by
exploring more fully the experience of contact
among semen donors who have had some form of
contact with DC offspring. In the United States,
where this study was conducted, contact happens in
a variety of different ways. Most sperm banks now
offer identity-release sperm. The Sperm Bank of
California (TSBC) started this practice in 1983
(Scheib, 2003). Donors at TSBC (and at other banks
with similar programs) can sign a contract that
authorizes the bank to reveal their identity only to a
DC individual who is at least 18 year old and has
requested the donor’s identifying information in
writing. Even then, the information is not
automatically released: the donor is requested to ll
out an updated prole and to specify his preferred
form of contact. If donors cannot be found, no
contact will be initiated. Donors and offspring (or
their parents) may also sign up voluntarily on
matching websites such as the DSR; neither the
donors nor the offspring can be assured that the
other party will respond to their offer of contact.
Finally, stakeholders may engage in a variety of
sleuthing practices through DNA testing relying on
ancestry companies such as Family Tree DNA
(https://www.familytreedna.com/) and 23andMe
(https://www.23andme.com). These growing
opportunities make it more important to understand
what happens when there is contact, especially since
hertz-.indd 92 30/06/15 10:21
DoNoR-coNceiVeD oFFsPRiNg – HeRtz et al. 93
anonymous. Overall there were 5 “known” donors,
35 originally anonymous donors, and 17 originally
identity-release donors. Because there are so few
“known” donors and their situation is so different
from the other two groups of donors, with the
exception of the demographic data we report next,
throughout the analysis we report on the entire
group of donors and, when making comparisons
within the group, compare only the anonymous and
identity-release donors.
As shown in Table I, the donors who had contact
with offspring had donated for an average of almost
six years, starting when they were approximately 27
and stopping when they were approximately 33. On
average, 18 years had elapsed since the respondents
with contact had last donated sperm. The three
groups of donors differ on these variables: the
known donors are the youngest and the shortest
interval has elapsed since their last donation. The
anonymous donors are the oldest and they donated
for the most years.
Curiosity During the Interim
Two-thirds (65%) of the respondents wondered
whether their donations led to conceptions. Fifty-
nine percent of the anonymous donors and 73% of
the identity-release donors contacted the clinic to
nd out how many children had been born from
their donations at some point in the interim between
donating and responding to the survey. During that
same period, the vast majority of donors (97% of
those who were anonymous and 100% of those who
were identity-release) indicated that they had
thought about the offspring who might have resulted
from their donations. Among the 45 respondents
who chose to elaborate on that response, 52% indi-
cated that they had “always” or “often” wondered
about those children. Another 18% did not really
explain whether they had wondered in the past but
indicated that being in contact meant that they
thought about them now. Nine respondents indicated
that they had not really wondered until some event
Thirty-nine percent (n = 47) of the respondents
from the DSR invitation had had contact with
offspring or their parents as had 38% (n = 10) of the
other respondents. These 57 respondents are the
focus of the analysis that follows. Just over half
(51%) were married and living with a partner of the
other sex; 56% had their own children; and 81%
reported their sexual identity as heterosexual.
Overall, the donors are well educated with over half
(53%) having more than a B.A. The vast majority
(93%) is Caucasian.
Measures
The questionnaire was pretested to ensure face and
content validity; several questions had been used by
the third author already in two previous studies of
sperm donors undertaken by the DSR (Jadva et al.,
2011; Daniels et al., 2012). This new study asked
for more information than had previous studies
about attitudes toward the experience of contact
with donor offspring. It was also made available in
more places. Both multiple choice questions and
open-ended questions were used, as appropriate.
With the help of research assistants, the rst two
authors developed codes for open-ended responses.
Each item was coded by two people; when there
were disagreements, responses were coded as
“other.” SPSS was used for all data analyses.
Results
Characteristics at the Time of Donation
Five of the donors had been known to the recipients
from conception either because they were family
members or friends, or because they donated
through a website that allowed for contact at the
time of donation. Among the remaining respondents,
only a quarter (23%) said that they had been given a
choice of what type of donor to be. Among those
given a choice, 67% chose to be identity-release.
Among those not given a choice, 78% were
Table I. — Characteristics of donors.
Known Donor Anonymous
Donor
Identity-Release
Donor
All Donors
Mean N Mean N Mean N Mean N
Number of Years donated 6.3 3 7.1 34 4.3 16 6.2 53
Number of Years since last donating 2.1 3 20.5 34 15.9 16 17.9 53
Current Age 39.6 4 52.5 35 50.6 16 50.6 55
Age when started donating 28.5 4 25.0 35 30.4 16 26.8 55
Age when stopped donating 35.7 3 32.1 34 34.7 16 33.1 53
hertz-.indd 93 30/06/15 10:21
94 Facts VieWs Vis obgyN
offspring respondents had connected with was 25,
the average was 4.3. Among those who had
connected with at least one donor offspring, 16%
did not stay in touch with any of them. Among the
37 respondents who stayed in touch with at least
one donor offspring, 62% stayed in touch with all
their donor offspring.
Table II shows more detail about the kinds
of contact respondents had with their offspring.
In some cases, contact is entirely mediated by
the parents, but most respondents (86%) have
communicated with at least one offspring at least
once and most have exchanged photos with
offspring. The six respondents who explicitly
indicated that they had been found by offspring
appear to have less intense contact than do those
who initiated contact (with the exception of helping
with nances).
Table II additionally shows levels of contact
separately for those who were originally anonymous
and those who were identity-release. Although in
general the latter group has higher levels of contact
than do the former, none of these differences rise to
statistical signicance at the .05 level.
Finally, Table II indicates what kind of contact
was desired by the 88 respondents who had wanted
to have contact with offspring but did not achieve
that contact. Although it is impossible to know what
level of contact the respondents with contact had
wanted before they had achieved contact, the data
show that more of those without contact wanted
each type of interaction than those with contact
actually achieved.
Respondents were asked to discuss more fully
the relationship they had with the donor offspring
to whom they felt closest (Table III). A fth
responded that that person was like a son or daughter
and 16% said that the person was like some other
close relative. The donors who gave other answers
said that the donor-conceived offspring was like a
friend (11%), acquaintance (9%), distant relative
(7%) or stranger (4%). A third of the respondents
added other comments or simply said that the
relationship was too hard to describe. Identity
release donors were most likely to say that the
offspring were like a son or daughter; anonymous
donors had the most difculty responding to the
xed categories.
Forty-three respondents expanded on the meaning
of these responses. Some respondents described
more fully how they thought of their offspring as
their children:
I am very close with a couple of the children who I
have met, and they really do seem like a son and a
daughter.
created awareness. For four of these respondents,
that event was hearing about the possibility of
contact through the media. For three respondents
that event was the birth of their own children:
After I had my own child at the age of 35, I started
thinking about all the potential children that I
might have conceived. When I saw how much of
myself was in my daughter, I began to think that
any donor children of mine would want to know
about me.
For two respondents that event was a notication of
a child’s existence:
I’ve thought a lot about them since being notied
[by the DSR] about their existence.
After I was contacted I did think about the resulting
child off and on….And now I know that there are
many children … so I do think about them regularly.
The vast majority of respondents (80% of those who
were anonymous and 94% of those who were
identity-release) had also wondered if their donor-
conceived offspring thought about them. Among
the 44 respondents who elaborated on this issue, the
most common response (44%) was some version of
a statement that the respondent assumed anyone
would be curious about the donor: “Any child who
knew they were donor conceived would think about
who their biological parent was”. Four respondents
added that they wondered if their offspring even
knew that they were donor conceived:
Who wouldn’t be curious about where they came
from? But it was another time, and it’s likely that
kids born in the 1970s might not know there was a
donor involved.
Making Contact
Eighty-four percent of the respondents who were
not already known to the families of their offspring
found those offspring through a bank, the DSR, or
some other registry. Twelve percent (n = 6) were
found by the offspring themselves. One respondent,
without indicating how he felt about having been
found did note that there had been a breach of
contract and that he had not sought contact: “[The]
clinic revealed what was supposed to be condential
info[rmation]”. One respondent engaged in his own
independent sleuthing when the DSR did not
produce contact:
I used the user name of one offspring/parent and
searched for the user name on the internet and
found a match on eBay.
Half (52%) of the respondents had connected with
only one or two offspring; the highest number of
hertz-.indd 94 30/06/15 10:21
DoNoR-coNceiVeD oFFsPRiNg – HeRtz et al. 95
which he had met his offspring mattered in the
relationship:
I met four offspring when they were very young
(ages 4 to 7). Those four call me dad and we are
very close. The others I met when they were
teenagers – we enjoy each other’s company and
there is a deep, not-easy-to-describe connection,
but it feels more like “the favorite uncle”.
Whether or not donors come to view their offspring
as family, after contact most come to have a greater
sense of responsibility for them (Table IV). Among
those who were identity-release donors the growth
in the sense of responsibility is especially great in
the category of “some” responsibility (from 28% to
59%); among those who were anonymous the
growth in the sense of responsibility is greatest in
the “a lot” category (from 6% to 23%).
Family Issues
As Table V shows, the vast majority of sperm
donors who had contact with offspring responded
that they did not feel displaced by the male parent of
their offspring. These data suggest that the donors
I met [my donor daughter] a couple of years ago at
her home in Maine along with [her sister], her
Mother, and Grandmother.… I feel she is my
daughter and am sorry I didn’t get to watch her
grow up.
Four respondents explained that although they felt
the child was important to them, they distinguished
between their role in the child’s life and that of a
“real” parent:
I liken our relationship like an Uncle to a Niece, or
like a Godfather to a Godchild.. I’ll never really be
their parent because I didn’t raise them.
[She is] like a daughter but I am aware that I
showed up late in her life, and she has her own
family, and I would not be much of a parent if real
parenting were needed. I get along well with them
all, and love the grandkids born since I have known
her. But her own family comes rst.
Six respondents explained that their relationships
with their offspring varied. One respondent simply
said, “Some I like. Some I don’t connect with”.
Other respondents provided more detail about the
variation. One of these suggested that the age at
Table II. — Percent of respondents who has and who want various forms of contact with donor-conceived offspring.
Form of Contact Donors with
Contact
Who Sought
Contact
(N = 51)
Donors with
Contact
found by
Offspring
(N = 6)
Donors
who were
originally
anonymous
(N = 35)
Donors who
were originally
identity-release
(N = 17)
Donors
without
Contact
(N = 88)
Offspring has looked/would look at prole 65% 67% 63% 77% 93%
Offspring has communicated/would
communicate at least once
86% 83% 89% 82% 97%
Offspring has sent/would send photo 82% 67% 77% 94% 94%
Donor has sent/would send photo 80% 50% 80% 77% 94%
Donor and offspring have communicated/
would communicate over email or text
71% 50% 67% 82% 94%
Donor and offspring have communicated/
would communicate through the DSR
53% 17% 54% 53% 88%
Donor and offspring have phoned/would
phone or Skype
53% 17% 46% 59% 91%
Donor and offspring have met/would meet
in person once
71% 33% 63% 77% 94%
Donor and offspring have spent time/would
continue to spend time together
47% 33% 40% 59% 88%
Donor has been/would be part of offspring's
daily life
20% 0% 14% 24% 38%
Donor has helped/would help offspring
make decisions
12% 17% 11% 18% 37%
Donor has helped/would help offspring
with nances
14% 50% 14% 24% 28%
hertz-.indd 95 30/06/15 10:21
96 Facts VieWs Vis obgyN
Introducing DC Offspring to their Own Families
Donors believe that DC offspring should not be
concealed from their own families (Table V). The
vast majority of those with contact have told a
partner (if they have them) about their donation.
The majority of the donors with contact report that
their partners are open to the donor having contact
with offspring and three-quarters suggest that their
partners themselves are open to connecting with the
offspring. There is some indication that the partners
of respondents who were originally anonymous
might be more reluctant than the partners of identity-
release donors to have contact with the DC offspring
of their partners. Among those donors with children,
almost three-quarters of those who have had contact
with offspring say that the children they are raising
know about their donations and almost all indicate
that those children have already met or are interested
in meeting at least one of their donor-conceived
offspring.
Additional questions assessed how donors felt
about the integration of donor-conceived offspring
into their lives. One set of questions asked whether
believe in the integrity of the social family of their
offspring. This is consistent with the responses
discussed above that described relationships with
donor offspring in language of respect for the
families that raised their offspring (e.g., “her own
family comes rst”; “I’ll never really be their parent
because I didn’t raise them”). Careful as these
donors appear to be, over half believe that they
might be thought of as posing a threat to the male
parents of their offspring. In their open-ended
comments on this issue, some respondents indicated
that they had concrete experiences of being viewed
as a threat: “I know for a fact that male parents have
trouble, since I’ve met with many”. Another
indicated that although he had contact with some of
his offspring, in at least one family the father
prevented contact by concealing the donor
conception: “I know of one situation where the male
parent of my genetic progeny has wanted to prevent
his children from ever knowing that he’s not their
biological father”. Other kinds of difculties might
also ensue: 14% of the respondents said that contact
had caused conict with the parent(s) of their DC
offspring.
Table III. — Relationship to donor offspring.
Relationship: Known Anonymous Identity-Release All Donors
Like a son or daughter 25% 17% 31% 22%
Like a close relative 25% 11% 25% 16%
Like a distant relative 0% 6% 13% 7%
Like a friend 25% 11% 6% 11%
Like and acquaintance 0% 9% 13% 9%
Like a stranger 0% 6% 0% 4%
Hard to Describe/Other 25% 40% 13% 31%
Total 100% 100% 100% 100%
N = 4 35 16 55
Table IV. — Feeling of responsibility for donor offspring among donors with contact.
Feeling of
responsibility
At the Time of
Donation
At the Time of
Responding
Anonymous Identity
release
Anonymous Identity
release
At the time of
donation
At the Time of
Responding
None 68% 33% 70% 59% 40% 24%
Some 25% 35% 23% 28% 29% 59%
A lot 5% 23% 6% 12% 23% 12%
Don’t Know 2% 1% 1% 1% 1% 1%
Total 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
N = 57 57 35 17 35 17
hertz-.indd 96 30/06/15 10:21
DoNoR-coNceiVeD oFFsPRiNg – HeRtz et al. 97
event (such as a wedding) (Table V). Donors with
contact were more likely to respond inclusively
with respect to DC offspring than they are to the
parents of their offspring. Donors who were identity
release respond more inclusively to DC offspring
and (especially) their parents than do those who
were originally anonymous.
General Attitudes toward Contact
Respondents were asked about the best part of
contact with offspring. Among the 44 respondents
who offered a response to this open-ended question,
30% indicated simply that what was best was
connecting with their offspring and even the children
of their offspring: “I went from zero to grandfather
donors considered their offspring and the parents of
their offspring to be members of their nuclear and
extended families (Table V). Not surprisingly, given
other responses already reported, the majority does
not consider either their donor offspring or the
parents of those offspring to be members of their
nuclear families. However, a full two-thirds view
donor offspring as part of their extended family and
almost half feel the same way about the parents of
their donor offspring. These sentiments of inclusion
are stronger among those who were identity release
at the time they donated.
Another set of questions asked respondents
whether they would share a piece of good news with
donor offspring or the parents of donor offspring
and whether they would invite them to a special
Table V. — Family issues.
A. Attitudes toward Offspring Family All Donors with
Contact
Anonymous
Donors
Identity-Release
Donors
Percent who feel displaced by male parent 6% (52) 9% (34) 0% (17)
Percent who believe male parent might be threatened by
them
54% (54) 53% (34) 44% (16)
B. Integration with own family
Percent whose partner knows about donation (among
those with a partner)
95% (41) 96% (25) 91% (11)
Percent with partners open to his contact with offspring 84% (38) 83% (23) 90% (10)
Percent with partners open to their own contact with
offspring
75% (36) 65% (23) 88% (8)
Percent whose children know parent was a donor
(among those with children)
72% (32) 84% (19) 57% (7)
Percent of children who met who have met or want to
meet donor siblings
95% (23) 100% (16) 75% (4)
C. Inclusion in Own Family
Percent who say offspring are part of their nuclear
family
25% (44) 24% (25) 31% (16)
Percent who say the parents of their offspring are part of
their nuclear family
12% (42) 16% (25) 7% (14)
Percent who say offspring are part of their extended
family
66% (47) 55% (29) 79% (11)
Percent who say the parents of their offspring are part of
their extended family
46% (44) 32% (28) 62% (13)
D. Measures of Inclusion
Percent who would share good news with donor
offspring
42% (57) 40% (35) 47% (17)
Percent who would share good news with parents of
donor offspring
26% (57) 26% (35) 29% (17)
Percent who would invite donor offspring to a special
occasion
46% (57) 40% (35) 53% (17)
Percent who would invite parents of donor offspring to a
special occasion
26% (57) 17% (35) 41% (17)
hertz-.indd 97 30/06/15 10:21
98 Facts VieWs Vis obgyN
experience: “Clinics have revealed condential
information and that despite what the clinic told you
about remaining anonymous and protecting your
privacy, do not be surprised if you are contacted by
a sperm recipient”. Only one respondent was
entirely negative.
Discussion
The data reported here come from a small group of
sperm donors. We have no way of knowing whether
donors who were unaware of the survey, or those
who were aware of it but chose not to respond,
would have the same attitudes or experiences of
contact with offspring. The conclusions of this
study must be evaluated with these concerns about
the size and representativeness of the sample in
mind.
Most sperm donors who have contact with their
donor-conceived offspring indicate that prior to that
contact they were curious about their offspring. In
all likelihood, that curiosity provided the incentive
to make efforts to achieve contact with donor-
conceived offspring (e.g., by signing up on a
registry). Among the respondents who had not
initiated contact, only one appeared to be quite
angry about the violation of his anonymity. The
other ve all gave responses throughout the survey
that indicated that they derived great pleasure from
the contact. Indeed, one commented that the only
thing tough about the experience was “that it took
so long to happen”.
Although most respondents have been in some
form of direct contact with their offspring and half
of them spend time with their offspring, very few
are part of the daily lives of their offspring. Without
further research it is impossible to know if these
ndings are the result of choice or some other factor
(e.g., distance). The content of the relationships
between donors and offspring range from that of
being like strangers to being like close family;
almost half place their offspring somewhere within
the category of “like” family.
Over half the sperm donors in this study were
aware that their presence in the life of their offspring
could be seen as a threat to the parents (especially
the social fathers) of those offspring. In addition,
even as they are concerned about respecting the
integrity of the family into which their offspring
were born, as others have shown, they are open to
enlarging the boundaries of their own families to
include offspring and their parents. In contrast to
what Daniels et al. (2012) found, integrating donor
offspring into their ongoing families was not a
major problem or even, for most respondents, an
issue of concern. A question that had not been asked
faster than anyone ever, and I really enjoy the grand
kids. I feel like I hit the jackpot and didn’t earn it”.
Another 18% said that the best part was knowing
that their offspring were in good situations: “[The
best part is] knowing that I have another child, and
that she seems to be happy and well adjusted. Made
me feel much better about donating in the rst
place”. Thirteen percent spoke about their feeling of
accomplishment and pleasure in “knowing that they
existed” or “just seeing what [their] donations did to
bring happiness to folks”. Eleven percent indicated
that what was best for them was observing genetic
similarities. Twenty-three percent of these
respondents gave a broad range of other responses.
Thirty-eight respondents also gave responses to a
question asking what was hardest about meeting
donor offspring. Among these, 34% responded that
it was difcult to judge the appropriate way to
develop the relationship: “Becoming more curious
about them, but not wanting to intrude into their
lives by asking too much”; “Didn’t want to appear
overly enthusiastic”. Fear of not being liked or of
disappointing offspring was the second most
common response offered by 24%: “Having them
see that I’m just an ordinary, plain person with aws
and defects”. Some respondents (11%) said that it
was hard not to be able to see their offspring enough
or to control the relationship and 8% said that they
did not like their offspring. A quarter of these
respondents gave a broad range of responses about
what was most difcult about meeting DC offspring.
At the end of the survey all respondents were
asked if there were anything they would want to add
that they would like potential donors to know. Three
quarters of those with contact responded. Thirty-
eight percent were positive about donating. As one
said, “Do it.” Some respondents are positive because
they can now reect on how being a donor has
changed their life for the better. For example, one
respondent said, “My having been a donor has led to
my having a fuller, richer, happier life”. A fth
(20%) of respondents were reective about the
importance of what they have done and they urged
that people think through the consequences of their
action before donating. One respondent phrased this
sentiment very clearly: “I think potential donors
should know that many of the children that result
will be interested in knowing some of the details of
their life, and should have contact with them”.
Another signicant group (13%) coming entirely
from the respondents who had been anonymous
originally urged donors to avoid anonymity. A
substantial proportion of the responses (28%) did
not t neatly into any single category. The one
respondent whose identity had been revealed by
mistake wrote a response that reected his
hertz-.indd 98 30/06/15 10:21
DoNoR-coNceiVeD oFFsPRiNg – HeRtz et al. 99
and sense of responsibility to DC offspring. Because
of the small sample size, none of these differences
rose to the level of statistical signicance. Future
research should look at comparisons among all
three kinds of donors in order to understand more
about early motivations and the experience of
contact with DC offspring. In addition, because this
phenomenon is likely to become more frequent,
future research might delve into the experiences of
donors who are found by offspring when the donors
have not indicated that they are open to that contact.
Findings about all of these issues could help in the
creation of policy that would better support parents,
offspring, and donors.
Acknowledgements
We would like to thank Jacqueline McGrath, Gabby
Hartman and Toby Israel for assistance in coding the
data. Data analysis was supported by NSF SES-1355726
(Margaret K. Nelson) and by NSF SES-1355740
(Rosanna Hertz).
References
Allan S. A Cross-Jurisdictional Study of Regulatory
Requirements and Practice Regarding the Recording of
Donor Information and Its Release to Donor Conceived
People. Available SSRN Electronic Journal. 2012;2160-
627.
Beeson DR, Jennings PK, Kramer W. Offspring searching for
their sperm donors: how family type shapes the process.
Hum Reprod. 2011;26:2415-24.
Blyth E, Frith L. Donor-Conceived People’s Access to Genetic
and Biographical History: An Analysis of Provisions in
Different Jurisdictions Permitting Disclosure of Donor
Identity. Int J Law Policy Fam. 2009;23:174-91.
Blyth E, Landau R. Third Party Assisted Conception Across
Cultures: Social, Legal and Ethical Perspectives. 2004;
London and New York: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Broderick P, Walker I. Donor gametes and embryos: who wants
to know what about whom, and why? Polit Life Sci. 2001;
20:29-42.
Couper M. Review: Web Surveys: A Review of Issues and
Approaches. Public Opin Q. 2000; 64:464-94.
Daniels K, Lalos A, Gottlieb C et al. Semen Providers and their
three families. J Psychosom. Obstet Gynecol. 2005;26:15-
22.
Daniels KR, Kramer W, Perez-y-Perez MV. Semen donors who
are open to contact with their offspring: issues and
implications for them and their families. Reprod Biomed
Online. 2012; 25:670-7.
Freeman T, Jadva V, Kramer W et al. Gamete donation:
parents’ experiences of searching for their child’s donor
siblings and donor. Hum Reprod. 2009;24:505-16.
Hammarberg K, Johnson L, Bourne K et al. Proposed legislative
change mandating retrospective release of identifying
information: consultation with donors and Government
response. Hum Reprod. 2014; 29:286-92.
Hertz R, Nelson MK, Kramer W. Donor Conceived Offspring
Conceive of the Donor: The Relevance of Age Awareness,
and Family Form. Soc Sci Med. 2013:86:52-65.
Jadva V, Freeman T, Kramer W et al. Sperm and oocyte donors’
experiences of anonymous donation and subsequent contact
with their donor offspring. Hum Reprod. 2001;26:638-45.
on previous surveys resulted in the nding that once
donors have had contact with offspring the majority
think about their offspring as being members of
their extended family and almost two-fths include
the parents in that same category. Of course it is
hard to know just what this inclusion would mean
for daily life, but almost half of the respondents
with contact say that they would invite DC offspring
to an important event or share good news with them
and a quarter say that they would invite the parents
of DC offspring to an important event or share good
news with them. These data suggest that strong ties
can develop between donors and DC offspring,
conrming the assumption on the part of donors
who believed that they would have a different sense
of family if they were “linked” to donor-conceived
offspring (van den Akker et al., 2014).
Finally, as others have found, many donors report
that contact with offspring is positive (Jadva et al.,
2011; Daniels et al., 2012). At the same time, this
study provides more evidence than previous ones
that contact has complications and carries the
possibility of both disappointment and conict.
Indeed, the evidence suggests that respondents have
less contact than they might have desired. The
evidence suggests as well that occasionally
interaction with offspring can produce conict with
the parents of those offspring. Moreover, even if
these relationships result in neither disappointment
nor conict, a third of the respondents said that it
was difcult to nd the right balance for the
relationship and a quarter said they had been anxious
about how their offspring would respond to them.
This last set of issues is one that in-depth research
might pursue in order to discover the factors that
produce positive – or negative – experiences of
interaction. Future research should also continue to
explore whether offspring and their parents feel the
same way donors do about the importance and
experience of contact. Although some research has
looked into such topics as how family type shapes
the search for, and attitudes toward, sperm donors
and donor siblings (Beeson et al., 2011; Hertz et al.,
2013) and how families create boundaries when
they use egg and sperm donations (Orobitg and
Salazar, 2005; Johnson, 2013), changing social
norms are likely to alter attitudes of all those affected
by gamete conceptions.
Most of the donors in this study had originally
been anonymous and only ve had been known
donors from the start. There were many subtle
differences between the anonymous donors and
those who were identity release with respect to
many of the questions asked, especially around the
intensity of contact with DC offspring, characterizing
the relationship to DC offspring and their parents,
hertz-.indd 99 30/06/15 10:21
100 Facts VieWs Vis obgyN
Rodino IS, Burton PJ, Sanders KA. Donor information
considered important to donors, recipients and offspring: an
Australian perspective. Reprod Biomed Online. 2011;22:
303-11.
Scheib JE. Choosing identity-release sperm donors: the parents’
perspective 13-18 years later. Hum Reprod. 2003;18:1115-
27.
van den Akker OBA, Crawshaw MA, Blyth ED et al.
Expectations and experiences of gamete donors and donor-
conceived adults searching for genetic relatives using DNA
linking through a voluntary register. Hum Reprod.
2014;30:111-21.
Van den Broeck U, Vandermeeren M, Vanderschueren D et al.
A systematic review of sperm donors: demographic
characteristics, attitudes, motives and experiences of the
process of sperm donation. Hum Reprod Update. 2013;19:
37-51. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dms039.
Wright KB. Researching Internet-Based Populations:
Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Survey Research,
Online Questionnaire Authoring Software Packages, and
Web Survey Services. J Comput.-Mediat Commun. 2005.
doi: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2005.tb00259.
Johnson KM. Making families: Organizational boundary work
in US egg and sperm donation. Soc Sci Med. 2013;99:64-71.
Kirkman M, Bourne K, Fisher J et al. Gamete donors’
expectations and experiences of contact with their donor
offspring. Hum Reprod. 2014;29:731-8.
Lampic C, Skoog Svanberg A, Sydsjo G. Attitudes towards
disclosure and relationship to donor offspring among a
national cohort of identity-release oocyte and sperm donors.
Hum Reprod. 2014;29:1978-86.
Monroe MC, Adams DC. Increasing Response Rates to Web-
Based Surveys. J Ext. 2012;50:6;Article Number 6T0T7.
Orobitg G, Salazar C. The gift of motherhood: Egg donation in
a Barcelona infertility clinic. Ethnos. 2005;70:31-52.
Purewal S, van den Akker OBA. Systematic review of oocyte
donation: investigating attitudes, motivations and
experiences. Hum Reprod Update. 2009;15:499-515.
Raes I, Ravelingien A, Pennings G. The Right of the donor to
information about children conceived from his or her
gametes. Hum Reprod. 2013;28:560-5.
Riggs DW, Russell L. Characteristics of men willing to act as
sperm donors in the context of identity-release legislation.
Hum Reprod. 2011;26:266-72.
hertz-.indd 100 30/06/15 10:21
... Lozano et al. (34) developed the donor conception identity questionnaire, and Isaksson et al. (32) used an adapted version of the donor ambivalence scale developed by Klock et al. (36). Some studies used parts of the same questionnaire across >1 study (24,28,(37)(38)(39). Majority of the studies (19/27) reported only the study questionnaire's topics and did not specify the construction process of the questionnaire. ...
... Moreover, an interest was perceived as a contraindication to recruitment. However, studies have shown that donors are interested in the outcome of their donation (e.g., if and how many children born) and do think of the people they helped to conceive (25,28,33,38,40,(62)(63)(64)(65)(66). ...
... Donor-oriented motivations, on the other hand, are about the donor's interest. Donors frequently cited being curious about the people they helped to conceive, such as how they were faring and/or about similarities and shared traits (27,28,38,40,62,63,66,68,69). They also cited wanting ''to fill in the gaps in their own life'' (29) or ''to make me feel more complete'' (27). ...
Article
Objective Recent changes in policy, practice, and technology have made it possible for those connected through donor conception - donor-conceived (DC) people, parents, and donors - to find and contact one another. We review the body of literature to summarize existing knowledge about factors that shape donor linking and discuss the implications for clinical care and future research. Evidence Review A bibliographic search of English, French, German, Spanish, and Dutch language peer-reviewed publications was performed following PRISMA guidelines, using the electronic databases PUBMED, EMBASE, and WEB of SCIENCE CORE COLLECTION. Inclusion criteria were (i) original empirical research with quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods, (ii) research participants were DC people, gamete donors and/or parents interested in searching for people (genetically) related to them through gamete donation, and (iii) a substantial part of the article focused on searching for or interest in contacting donor-related people. Exclusion criteria were (i) publications other than original peer-reviewed research, and (ii) publications on known donors and surrogacy. The methodological quality was assessed using the Critical Appraisal Skills Program checklist for qualitative studies and the JBI Critical Appraisal Checklist for quantitative studies. Eligibility, quality assessments and data extraction were performed by two teams independently, with disagreements resolved through discussion Results The initial search retrieved 4040 publications, of which 119 articles were full-text screened and 47 studies were included for review. Studies were diverse in design, setting, recruitment methods, data collection, and stakeholder groups. DC people, parents and donors of the included studies all had an interest in each other; however, motives, desired information and/or expectations regarding interest and/or contact could differ. For participants in the studies, the interests of DC people, parents and donors are intertwined and not necessarily in conflict. Methodological limitations were identified in the included studies. Conclusions Donor linking occurs within a complex array of several factors: psychosocial, social-demographical, relational and environmental variables. Research is still needed to better understand the relative influence of these variables and identify the psychosocial needs of the different groups. Preliminary findings show that stakeholders can have an interest in ongoing contact. However, methodological shortcomings limited the extent to which findings can be applied to all people interested in donor-related contact. Follow-up research is needed on what happens after parties are linked.
... Research addressing sperm donors' engagement in linking indicates less interest than DCP and RP in providing information (Daniels et al., 2012;Hertz et al., 2015;Rodino et al., 2011;Van den Broeck et al., 2013). However, sperm donors often indicate a willingness to share information if requested Kirkman et al., 2014). ...
... However, sperm donors often indicate a willingness to share information if requested Kirkman et al., 2014). The main reasons given by donors for agreeing to supply information are concern for the well-being of the children and curiosity (Daniels et al., 2012;Hertz et al., 2015). ...
... One-third of the men in this study had partners who objected to contact. A study of 57 donors who had made contact with offspring (83% of whom had been recruited via the DSR) found that approximately two-thirds had met in person at least once (Hertz et al., 2015). An Australian study with 42 egg and sperm donors who donated in the era of anonymity found that just under onequarter had had contact with offspring . ...
Article
Full-text available
Knowledge of genetic origins is widely believed to have consequences for health, family belonging and personal identity. Donor linking is the process by which donors, recipient parents (RP) and donor-conceived people (DCP) gain access to identifying information about each other. This paper reports on the information and contact sought by donor-linking applicants to the central and voluntary registers in the state of Victoria, Australia, which has one of the most comprehensive donor-linking legislative frameworks in the world. Applicants to the Victorian registers complete a statement of reasons (SOR), a written document that is given to the subject of the application, outlining their reasons for applying and their short- and long-term goals. SOR written by applicants between 29 June 2015 and 28 February 2017 who had agreed to be recontacted for research were analysed. Forty-two of 93 eligible applicants took part (45%). All applications pertained to donor sperm. RP were the largest applicant group (n = 19) followed by DCP (n = 17) and donors (n = 6). All applicants wanted personal information and most expressed a desire for contact. Single mothers of young children used the registers more than any other parent group, indicating that family structure may influence application patterns. While it is apparent that all applicants are eager for information and some form of interpersonal contact, further research is needed on how the legal and policy landscape of different jurisdictions influences expectations, as well as what happens after parties are linked.
... Introduction media, ranging from internet communications to face-to-face contact (Braverman & Corson, 2002;Crawshaw, Blyth, & Daniels, 2007;Daniels, 1989;Daniels et al., 2005;Daniels et al., 2012;Ernst et al., 2007;Godman, Sanders, Rosenberg, & Burton, 2006;Hertz et al., 2015;Jadva et al., 2011;Kalfoglou & Geller, 2000a;2000b;Kirkland et al., 1992;Kirkman et al., 2014;Klock, Stout, & Davidson, 2003;Mahlstedt & Probasco, 1991;Speirs, 2012). ...
... Primarily the reasons reported included a wish to assist any individual born from gamete donation seeking information about their biogenetic and biographical heritage and a desire to inform their "own" children about any genetic half-siblings they may have. More than has been observed in earlier studies, respondents in this study highlighted a wish to satisfy their own needs for information and contact and to assuage any apprehensions, and responsibility for this, as to how their lives had turned out (Braverman & Corson, 2002;Crawshaw et al., 2007;Daniels, 1989;Daniels et al., 2005;Daniels et al., 2012;Ernst et al., 2007;Godman et al., 2006;Hertz et al., 2015;Jadva et al., 2011;Kalfoglou & Geller, 2000a;2000b;Kirkland et al., 1992;Kirkman et al., 2014;Klock et al., 2003;Mahlstedt & Probasco, 1991;Speirs, 2012). ...
... As one of the three respondents who had made contact with his offspring reported, such concerns may persist when contact is actually established. This finding is consistent with previous research investigating contact between donors and offspring which has also reported that donors may not always be satisfied with the contact they have managed to establish or may be disappointed with their contact (Daniels et al., 2012;Freeman, Jadva, Kramer, & Golombok, 2009;Hertz et al., 2015;Jadva et al., 2011). Indeed, two of the three respondents in the current study who had linked with offspring reported that contact had brought some negative consequences for them. ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper reports on a study of the views and experiences of 21 sperm donors and five egg donors registered with UK DonorLink (UKDL), a voluntary DNA-based contact register established to facilitate contact between adults who wish to identify and locate others to whom they are genetically related following donor conception. Specifically, the paper examines donors’ reasons for searching for, or making information about themselves available to donor-conceived offspring. Their expectations of registration with UKDL, experiences of being registered and finally, the experiences of those who had contacted donor-conceived offspring and other genetic relatives are investigated. While most respondents reported largely positive experiences of registration, the study found significant issues relating to concerns about donation, DNA testing, possible linking with offspring and expectations of any relationship that might be established with offspring that have implications for support, mediation and counselling. Research that puts the experiences, perceptions and interests of gamete donors as the central focus of study is a relatively recent phenomenon. This study contributes to this debate and highlights directions for future research in this area.
... Very little is known about the effects of offspring (or parents) contacting donors who have donated anonymously. Current studies involve donors who have changed their minds and have demonstrated this for instance by putting their name on voluntary registers (Jadva et al., 2011;Daniels et al., 2012;Hertz et al., 2015). Within the group of anonymous donors, a number probably did not mind identification at the time of donation (even if anonymity was the rule) or have changed their minds about identification later on. ...
... This violates parents' right to organize their family as they see fit. In a study by Hertz et al. (2015), the donors themselves noted that they felt the parents of the offspring considered them as a threat. One should be aware that this type of donor may constitute a serious danger for family functioning in the recipient families, especially when conflicts arise due to the donor's wish to have more contact than the family or the offspring desire. ...
Article
Anonymity is a multifaceted term. Anonymity is rarely eternal or absolute. The use of genetic databases increases the risk of identification of previously anonymous donors. Searches through genetic databases jeopardize the privacy of people who did and did not register on them. Three types of searches can be distinguished in the context of gamete donation: offspring looking for their donor, offspring looking for donor siblings and donors looking for their donor offspring. All three types of searches violate the rights of recipients and donors. It is argued that despite the existence of genetic databases, anonymity maintains the same function as it had before: it expresses a wish for distance and privacy by both donors and recipients and, even if not enforceable, should be respected by all parties in good faith.
... Donor offspring who hold a biogenetic view of the family consider the donor as their father (Harrigan et al., 2014;Ravelingien et al., 2013). This may be a relatively small group but a much larger group may consider the donor as a kind of father, with corresponding obligations (Hertz et al., 2015). This attribution may also be made by recipients. ...
Article
This article argues that that there are two important reasons why many potential donors refrain from donating and why many donors value not being outed as a sperm donor. The first reason is the stigma attached to sperm donation. The second is the attribution of fatherhood to the donor. Attributional fatherhood is based on the rejection of the basic rule underlying the practice of sperm donation, i.e., the donor is not the father of the offspring. Attributional fatherhood ascribes the status of father exclusively on the basis of the genetic connection between the donor and the offspring. The violation of the ‘responsible father’ rule generates moral blame and may result in conflicts, disapproval, and rejection. The presence of this view in different groups is demonstrated. Possible solutions for this issue are briefly presented. Given the geneticisation of relationships in society in general, this phenomenon may increase in the future thus putting pressure on the practice of sperm donation.
... As Blyth et al (2017) noted: 'Research that puts the experiences, perceptions and interests of gamete donors as the central focus of study is a relatively recent phenomenon.' Consequently, we have only a limited understanding of the motivations and experiences of donors who participate in donor linking and virtually none about those who initiate the process. The small body of existing research largely focuses on sperm and egg donors who join voluntary registers, including statutory and informal online registers (Jadva et al, 2011;Speirs, 2012;Almeling, 2014;Kirkman et al, 2014;Hertz et al, 2015;Blyth et al, 2017). Findings suggest that donors who engage with voluntary registers are typically driven by curiosity, concern for the well-being of their donor offspring, and a desire to provide offspring with non-identifying and, in some cases, identifying information. ...
Article
Full-text available
In June 2015, the state of Victoria, Australia retrospectively opened its sperm and egg donors’ records, becoming only the second jurisdiction in the world to do so and the first where substantial pre-legislative records are available and stored in a central register. The new legislation gave donor-conceived adults and donors who were conceived or donated under conditions of anonymity (ie prior to 1988) the right to apply to the state’s Central Register for each other’s identifying information, which is released to them if the subject of the application consents. Between the introduction of the law and its further amendment in March 2017, more than 100 applications were made. Through a thematic analysis of donor-conceived adults’ and donors’ Statements of Reasons – a written document applicants were required to complete when they applied – the article explores applicants’ motivations for applying, the information they sought, and their goals with regard to contact. The study found that most applicants were driven by curiosity and a desire for personal information about the other party. They also expressed a strong desire to meet and have an ongoing relationship with the subject of their application. The study also revealed an unanticipated desire on the part of previously anonymous donors for information about their offspring, suggesting future research could explore the emotional needs of donors in greater depth.
Chapter
The application of donor semen is today widely used to assist heterosexual couples to conceive in cases of severe male factor subfertility, as well as single women and lesbian couples where no male partner is present. In some countries, a recipient can choose between anonymous and non-anonymous donors, where the use of the latter ensures that the future child receives the possibility to know the identity of the sperm donor. As no international consensus has been reached on what is optimal regarding the donor anonymity issue, not all countries allow for both options. In many countries, the sperm donation process is regulated by law; therefore, sperm banks are selective in who they permit to donate in terms of the risk of transferring infectious and genetic diseases while ensuring a high sperm quality.
Article
Résumé Le développement des tests génétiques à visée récréative, bien qu’interdits en France, lance un réel défi à la pratique actuelle du don de gamètes dans le cadre des CECOS. L’anonymat du don de gamètes est aujourd’hui un principe du don de gamètes en France, aux côtés de la gratuité et du volontariat. Ce principe est fragilisé en raison de la mise à la disposition du grand public de ces tests sur Internet. On estime à plusieurs milliers les personnes conçues par don de gamètes dans le monde, dont certaines ne connaissent pas leur mode de conception. Les donneurs de gamètes devraient être informés qu’à présent leur anonymat pourrait ne plus être garanti, car ils peuvent être identifiés par des homologies de leur ADN, ou de celui d'un parent ou d’un enfant, potentiellement disponibles dans les bases de données. Les adolescents et/ou adultes conçus par don de gamètes mais non informés par leurs parents peuvent découvrir ainsi leur mode de conception. II conviendrait également de prévenir les couples receveurs d’un don de gamètes que l'ADN de leur enfant est susceptible d’établir la discordance biologique. C’est un argument supplémentaire pour les encourager à informer leur enfant de son mode de conception. Plusieurs pays permettent désormais aux enfants et/ou adultes conçus par don d’obtenir l’identité du donneur. En France, le projet de loi relatif à la Bioéthique est actuellement en cours de finalisation et permettra désormais aux personnes conçues par don de gamètes d’accéder à leurs origines.
Chapter
Since 2000, the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR) has connected almost 20,000 donor offspring with their half siblings and/or their biological parents. They have been able to create and explore these new relationships, better understand their ancestry and learn about their genetic family’s medical backgrounds. In addition, the DSR has helped to eliminate much of the stigma associated with donor conception. Behind the scenes, but very actively, the DSR’s research, education, and counseling services have been instrumental in creating momentum towards establishing positive reforms around the world. Many of us wonder how we can best serve the needs of the people conceived via egg or sperm donation. To address this, the DSR has conducted research, hearing from thousands of donor offspring to find out what was important to them. Our research along with DSR anecdotal information has given us insight into the needs of all stakeholders. This chapter will discuss the DSR’s work, covering the topics of anonymity, medical and genetic issues, and connecting with close genetic relatives while examining how the reproductive medicine industry might move forward in a more ethical and responsible manner.
Article
Full-text available
Study question: What are oocyte donors and sperm donors' attitudes towards disclosure and relationship to donor offspring? Summary answer: Oocyte and sperm donors in an identity-release donor programme support disclosure to donor offspring and have overall positive or neutral attitudes towards future contact with offspring. What is known already: There is a global trend towards open-identity gamete donation with an increasing number of countries introducing legislation allowing only identifiable donors. While women and men who enrol in identity-release donor programmes accept that they may be contacted by donor offspring, there is limited knowledge of their attitudes towards disclosure to donor offspring and how they perceive their relationship to potential donor offspring. Study design, size and duration: The present study is part of the 'Swedish study on gamete donation', a prospective cohort study including donors at all fertility clinics performing donation treatment in Sweden. During a 3-year period (2005-2008), donors were recruited consecutively and a total of 157 oocyte donors and 113 sperm donors (who did not donate to a specific 'known' couple) were included prior to donation. Participants in the present study include 125 female (80%) and 80 male donors (71%) that completed two follow-up assessments. Participants/materials, settings and methods: Participants completed two postal questionnaires 2 months after donation and 14 months after donation. Attitudes towards disclosure to donor offspring were assessed with an established instrument. Perceptions of involvement with donor offspring and need for counselling was assessed with study-specific instruments. Statistical analyses were performed with non-parametric tests. Main results and the role of chance: A majority of oocyte and sperm donors supported disclosure to donor offspring (71-91%) and had positive or neutral attitudes towards future contact with offspring (80-87%). Sperm donors reported a higher level of involvement with potential donor offspring compared with oocyte donors (P = 0.005). Few donors reported a need for more counselling regarding the consequences of their donation. Limitations, reasons for caution: While the multicentre study design strengthens external validity, attrition induced a risk of selection bias. In addition, the use of study-specific instruments that have not been psychometrically tested is a limitation. Wider implications of the findings: The positive attitudes towards disclosure to offspring of female and male identity-release donors are in line with previous reports of anonymous and known donors. While our results on donors' general positive or neutral attitudes towards future contact with potential donor offspring are reassuring, a subset of donors with negative attitudes towards such contact warrants concern and suggests a need for counselling on long-term consequences of donating gametes. Study funding: The 'Swedish study on gamete donation' was funded by the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, and the Regional Research Council in Uppsala-Örebro. There are no conflicts of interest to declare.
Article
Full-text available
What are the expectations and experiences of anonymous gamete donors about contact with their donor offspring? Rather than consistently wanting to remain distant from their donor offspring, donors' expectations and experiences of contact with donor offspring ranged from none to a close personal relationship. Donor conception is part of assisted reproduction in many countries, but little is known about its continuing influence on gamete donors' lives. A qualitative research model appropriate for understanding participants' views was employed; semi-structured interviews were conducted during January-March 2013. Before 1998, gamete donors in Victoria, Australia, were subject to evolving legislation that allowed them to remain anonymous or (from 1988) to consent to the release of identifying information. An opportunity to increase knowledge of donors' expectations and experiences of contact with their donor offspring recently arose in Victoria when a recommendation was made to introduce mandatory identification of donors on request from their donor offspring, with retrospective effect. Pre-1998 donors were invited through an advertising campaign to be interviewed about their views, experiences and expectations; 36 sperm donors and 6 egg donors participated. This research is unusual in achieving participation by donors who would not normally identify themselves to researchers or government inquiries. Qualitative thematic analysis revealed that most donors did not characterize themselves as parents of their donor offspring. Donors' expectations and experiences of contact with donor offspring ranged from none to a close personal relationship. It is not possible to establish whether participants were representative of all pre-1998 donors. Anonymous donors' needs and desires are not homogeneous; policy and practice should be sensitive and responsive to a wide range of circumstances and preferences. Decisions made to restrict or facilitate contact or the exchange of information have ramifications for donors as well as for donor-conceived people. The study was funded by the Victorian Department of Health. The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. Not applicable.
Article
Full-text available
How do gamete donors who presumed they could remain anonymous respond to proposed legislation to retrospectively remove anonymity? A little more than half of the donors opposed the recommendation to introduce legislation to remove donor anonymity with retrospective effect. An increasing proportion of parents disclose their origins to their donor-conceived children and growing numbers of donor-conceived adults are aware of how they were conceived. Research indicates that access to information about the donor is important to donor-conceived people. However, worldwide most donor-conceived people are unable to find any identifying information about the donor because of the practice of anonymous gamete donation. This study adopted a qualitative research model using semi-structured interviews with gamete donors that included open questions. Interviews with 42 volunteers were conducted between December 2012 and February 2013. Before 1998 gamete donors in Victoria, Australia, were able to remain anonymous. Pre-1998 donors were invited through an advertising campaign to be interviewed about their views on a recommendation that legislation mandating retrospective release of identifying information be introduced. Donors were almost evenly split between those who supported and those who rejected the recommendation to introduce legislation to remove donor anonymity with retrospective effect. About half of the donors who rejected the recommendation suggested the compromise of persuading donors voluntarily to release information (whether identifying or non-identifying) to donor-conceived people. These donors were themselves willing to supply information to their donor offspring. The findings of this study informed the Victorian Government's response to the proposed legislative change. While acknowledging donor-conceived people's right of access to information about their donors, the Government decided that identifying information should be released only with the consent of donors and that donors should be encouraged to allow themselves to be identifiable to their donor offspring. There is no way of knowing whether participants were representative of all pre-1998 donors. The balancing of donors' and donor-conceived people's rights requires utmost sensitivity. All over the world, increasing numbers of donor-conceived people are reaching adulthood; of those who are aware of their mode of conception, some are likely to have a strong wish to know the identity of their donors. Legislators and policy-makers in jurisdictions permitting anonymous gamete donations will need to respond when these desires are expressed, and may choose to be guided by the model of consultation described in this paper. The study was funded by the Victorian Department of Health. The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. Not applicable.
Article
Full-text available
The study forms part of the author’s ongoing research on pscyho-social, ethical and legal issues regarding the release of identifying and non-identifying information about donors to donor conceived people where assisted reproduction has been used. The author traveled to a number of jurisdictions (the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Austria, and the United Kingdom) that require the recording and release of such information (i.e. they require non-anonymous gamete donation) and interviewed practitioners, regulators and other persons regarding regulatory approaches and practices. In particular, the project examined: 1) what the law in each jurisdiction provides; 2) the practice of recording information about the donor and releasing such information to donor conceived people or the recipient parent(s); 3) information regarding what underlies the law; how well it had been received; and any aspects of the law or practice that might be improved according to those who were implementing it. Some further research was also conducted on other jurisdictions and is briefly included at the end of the report. Recommendations regarding regulation and practice are made.
Article
We review a popular method for collecing data-Web-based surveys. Although Web surveys are popular, one major concern is their typically low response rates. Using the Dillman et al. (2009) approach, we designed, pre-tested, and implemented a survey on climate change with Extension professionals in the Southeast. The Dillman approach worked well, and we generated response rates as high as 79%. However, the method was not problem-free. We share several lessons learned and recommendations for increasing response rates with Web-based surveys and draw attention to the importance of personalized and repeated contact for improving survey response rates.
Article
STUDY QUESTION What are the experiences of donor-conceived adults and donors who are searching for a genetic link through the use of a DNA-based voluntary register service?
Article
In this paper we analyse the ways in which egg donors from a private infertility clinic in Barcelona try to render their new experience meaningful. Donors are striving to see their action as a contribution to the creation of a particular kinship bond – motherhood in another woman – by means of the abrogation of a bond that also looks very much like kinship, which links them to the individuals that will be born thanks to their eggs. The specific meaning that egg donation has for each donor varies according to her particular circumstances, but the language constructed in order to convey this meaning emerges from the creative expression of several cultural paradoxes and dichotomies that constitute, in themselves, an original and highly significant cultural grammar.
Article
Rarely have donor conceived offspring been studied. Recently, it has become more common for parents to disclose the nature of conception to their offspring. This new development raises questions about the donor's place in the offspring's life and identity. Using surveys collected by the Donor Sibling Registry, the largest U.S. web-based registry, during a 15 week period from October 2009 to January 2010, we found that donor offspring view the donor as a whole person, rather than as simple genetic material (he can know you; he has looks; he can teach you about yourself); they also believe that the donor should act on his humanity (he should know about you and not remain an anonymous genetic contributor). Other new issues that emerge from this research include the findings that offspring may want to control the decision about contacting their sperm donor in order to facilitate a bond between themselves and the donor that is separate from their relationship with their parents. They also wish to assure their parents that their natal families are primary and will not be disrupted. We discuss how the age at which offspring learned about their donor conception and their current age each make a difference in their responses to what they want from contact with their donor. Family form (heterosexual two-parent families and lesbian two-parent families) also affects donor terminology. The role of the genetic father is reconsidered in both types of families. Donor conceived offspring raised in heterosexual families discover that their natal father no longer carries biological information and he is relegated to being "only" a social father. Offspring raised by lesbian couples experience a dissipation of the family narrative that they have no father. The donor, an imagined father, offers clues to the offspring's personal identity. The natal family is no longer the sole keeper of identity or ancestry.