Monday, September 11, 2006

Donor insemination

I'm writing from San Diego, where I recently spoke to the Reproductive Council of the American Association of Tissue Banks.

Weird place for me to find myself, yes. But I was invited to talk to roughly 30 sperm bank directors and accreditors about the concerns Choice Moms (and others I've interviewed for a pending book) have about the insemination industry AFTER they've conceived and have a live, curious child asking questions about the donor. Or of donors who realize later in life the importance of genetic history and feel an obligation to pass on medical history and contact info for basic questions to offspring but don't feel the sperm banks are helping them do so. Or of donor-conceived kids who -- much as they love their family -- feel a gap in knowledge about simple things that reflect their own identity questions, like "does he like music the way I do?," "where did my blond hair come from?"

I also offered the reminder that our young kids today don't STAY our children. They become adults with the same nagging questions. When their own child is born, they might feel conflicted about passing along an absent genetic history to their beloved next generation. As they get older, filling out medical forms at the doctor, again, with "unknown" under history of heart disease or cancer, they might resent not being forewarned about important medical conditions they should be aware of.

Anyway, I was invited to talk about the social issues from the view of recipients. I explained that my own experience as the sister of an adopted brother, with two close adopted relatives whose unknown possible genetic predispositions for depression or violence greatly impacted family, led me to use a known donor -- despite the legal and emotional pitfalls of that choice.

My two goals for the industry, I told them, as someone who knows hundreds of Choice Moms who have donor-conceived kids, are: 1) create a central registry so that medical history, basic geography and number of offspring per donor, and willingness to be contacted, can be accurately recorded and updated; 2) work as an ally in raising awareness of potential issues and concerns with donors and prospective parents.

I don't know that my talk with them will facilitate anything at this point other than the agreement, as it did, that further talk and resolution is needed. But I do know that it strengthened my resolve to be part of the solution.