Who’s Your Daddy – Children of Prolific Sperm Donors Face Unique Challenges

An article published September 5, 2011 in the New York Times addresses emerging concerns for multiple children born to a single donor. It’s an issue that will only become more common as an increasing number of single or same sex parents turn to donors to conceive children.

As children born from donors age and begin dating, the nature of their parentage presents a rather awkward scenario – in the event two young adults who happen to be born from donors meet and find themselves attracted to one another, they inevitably will have to compare their donor numbers to make sure they aren’t half-siblings. It’s the stuff that seems like a plot of some contrived Lifetime Network Movie, but it’s a reality for those who were born during the earlier days of alternative reproductive technology and are now old enough to be dating.

Estimates for the number of children born using sperms donors vary from 30,000-60,000 per year. The NY Times article was spurred by the story of a Washington woman who used a sperm donor to conceive a child seven years ago. She started a web registry to track the half-siblings of her child. With donor children, it is not uncommon for a child to have as many as a dozen siblings, but in the case of Ms. Daily’s child, the number of siblings on the registry kept growing, now totaling 150. That number is alarming to many health care and legal professionals who work in assisted reproductive technology. It’s a frightening statistic showing that agencies are profiting significantly from popular donors with little regard to the long-term consequences of producing so many children who are related. Not only is there the concern for an accidental incestual relationship among sibling offspring, but the frightening possibility that genes for rare diseases could be more easily spread through the population.

While 150 is the highest number of offspring tracked from one donor, results show that it is not uncommon for as many as 50 children to be born from a donor. This number exceeds the industry’s recommended guidelines, but those guidelines are not law and there is little in the way of oversight or legislation to restrict the use of popular donors. Industry regulations and practices in countries such as Britain, France and Sweden restrict the number of children that can be born of a single donor to 10. However, alternative reproductive law regulations still vary greatly from state to state in the US, and the variation or lack of regulation creates confusion and allows for unethical practices. Another statistic that does not bode well for the accuracy of information for the number of children in the US born to a donor is that less than 40% of parents who use a donor register their child’s donor number – it’s a voluntary practice that isn’t required or regulated. Nor do all parents tell their children the circumstances of their conception – which creates an even bigger dilemma.

For more about this topic, read the article on the NY Times website.


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