Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Multnomah "Donor" Sues re Wrongful Conception

Note: The views espoused in this editorial are not that of the blogger and being provided for the reader's information.

Albany Democrat-Herald

Run this man out of court

In Portland, we are seeing another chapter in the long story of how technology has made a commodity out of human life, especially babies, a commodity to be created or discarded at will, and a thing to be argued over in court.As reported in the papers last week, a man went to court in Multnomah County. He had deposited some of his sperm at Oregon Health & Science

University so that it could be implanted in his girlfriend. Instead, the fertility clinic made a mistake and implanted the sperm in another woman, who had sought to be impregnated by an anonymous donor so she and her husband could have a baby.

The donor is suing because he wants to know if his sperm helped make a baby. The couple is suing back in order to be left alone.

According to the story, the hospital made an attempt to make sure the woman did not become pregnant, even offering her an abortion if she did. It’s not known whether a child resulted, but the implication is that yes, one did.

Where to begin to count the wrongs in this story?Why would the medical school hospital agree to impregnate the girlfriend of some donor?

Why doesn’t it insist that they be married first? What if the “relationship” doesn’t last and there’s yet another child with just one parent in the home?

If there’s a mistake in a fertility deal, the hospital offers to do an abortion? And people made fun of President Bush for worrying about human embryos being treated like so much unwanted trash.

Then the sperm donor goes to court to invade the privacy of the unfortunate couple caught up in this mess through absolutely no fault of their own. Suppose they did get pregnant and now have a baby. What right does this guy have to interfere in the lives of parents and child?

If the Oregon courts don’t throw this man out on his ear by dismissing his suit without further ado, there’s something wrong not just with the hospital but with the courts as well. (hh)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Letters re Dangers and Dilemmas of Donor Conception

The Times
September 26, 2006

Dangers and dilemmas of donor conception

Sir, It is quite true that the majority of us know our ancestry. That some may not, because of agreements legally and knowingly entered into by our genetic parents, does not necessarily entail a lack of justice or a harm.

The vast majority of doctors have never sworn the Hippocratic Oath, let alone read it. The passage quoted by Christine Whipp (letter, Sept 23) is not “do no harm” but actually “first of all do no harm”. This is, when unpacked, morally nonsensical.

All treatments and therapies have the potential to harm. Nausea from an antibiotic, the fatal anaphylactic reaction to an intravenous drug or the stroke after neck manipulation all represent harms that come about as a result of trying to do good. If doing no harm first of all is the prime code of medicine then we are bound to do nothing: a sort of therapeutic nihilism.

Medicine, like much of life, represents a balance of harms versus benefits. It is true that some people conceived by sperm donation are harmed by not knowing their parents, but if the result of making donation non-anonymous is to reduce donation, and consequently the numbers of births to infertile couples, how do we balance the moral scales?

Honorary Senior Lecturer
Medical Ethics Unit
Imperial College, London


Sir, If society accepts that the desire for a biological connection is a “legitimate interest” that is strong enough to make adults choose donor conception over adoption, then it is the ultimate double standard to deny that desire for a biological connection when it is expressed by donor-conceived adults.

(Conceived in New Zealand by anonymous donor)
Harvard Law School


Sir, Baroness Deech (letter, Sept 23) was wrong when she wrote: “Medical predictions can be made just as accurately from one’s own body.” She will remain wrong for the many decades that it will take to discover how every gene, every interaction of multiple genes and every interaction of genes with lifestyle affects the development of disease. Even then she would still be wrong unless every baby had its complete genome determined and read. At what cost?

The vast numbers of us with a blank space or “father unknown” on our birth certificates plus those whose genetic father is not the father named are now joined by a growing number whose genetic mother is unknown and the not insignificant trickle of those for whom neither genetic parent is known.

Nor is this genetic information merely a matter of parents. One needs to know about genetic illnesses of ancestors farther back and of illnesses in collateral lines. Diseases dependent on recessive genes may “skip a generation”. This simple piece of biology appears to be unknown to the mandarins and ministers formulating the legislation on the rights of children to seek information.

Meanwhile, those of us who have genetic parents unknown get on with the business of dying. And watch our own descendants sickening or dying because we do not have the information to pass to them in time.

Newton Abbot, Devon


Sir, As the national organisation providing support and information to those affected by infertility, we encounter daily the difficulties faced by couples who need donor sperm and eggs.

An increasing number of patients now face long waiting lists and, even worse, the prospect of not being able to access treatment in the UK, such is the lack of donors in many parts of the country. We are now seeing many couples travelling abroad for egg and sperm donor treatments.

Many NHS hospitals which provide infertility treatments do not have the facilities to recruit donors and are purchasing sperm from commercial clinics and sperm banks at astronomical prices. Donor recruitment needs to be looked at carefully by clinics and any discussions should involve patient and donor representatives.

Infertility is an illness which causes severe emotional distress and when sufferers cannot access the treatment needed that distress is greatly heightened.

Head of Business Development
Infertility Network UK

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Letters re TimesOnline: Competing Interests - Rights of Donors over Donor Conceived

The following letters are presented in most recent date order


The Times September 23, 2006,,59-2370665,00.html

Competing interests in sperm donor secrecy

Sir, Sir Colin Campbell (letter, Sept 21) allows expediency to trump a significant human rights issue: the interests of donor-conceived people to learn about their genetic history. The evidence is that these are very real, and not imagined, interests.
The Government decision to end gamete and embryo donor anonymity was influenced by a recognition that the only ethical form of donor conception was non-anonymous donation.

The full extent of the donor “crisis” in the UK has yet to be fully assessed and we should be wary of attributing the cause to the change in legislation. Births of children conceived as a result of donor insemination in the UK peaked in 1994, so the subsequent decline can hardly be attributed to a change in legislation that was announced a decade later. Donors are in short supply in many countries, even where donor anonymity still enjoys legal protection.

That identifiable donors can be recruited successfully if sufficient effort is expended is demonstrated by those clinics that have continued to do so.

In abolishing donor anonymity, the UK Government committed itself to the interests and rights of donor-conceived people. Now is the time for cool reflection, not hasty demands to turn back the clock.

Professor of Social Work
University of Huddersfield


Sir, I was chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) from 1994 to 2002 and support my predecessor, Colin Campbell, in calling for the restoration of anonymity for sperm donors.

During my chairmanship the authority discussed the issue thoroughly on several occasions and remained firmly of the view that anonymity was right. This was not only in order to ensure volunteers, but out of respect for the husband of the baby’s mother, who would assume the role of real father to the child in social and emotional terms.

The lobby for the removal of anonymity asserted a misleading parallel with adoption, but adoption has a history and a relinquishment that call for explanation. The argument that one needs to know one’s father in order to ascertain health issues is also false. Medical predictions can be made just as accurately from one’s own body.

Moreover, if knowing one’s father is so important, should not every child have the right to DNA test the adults in his or her household? That would have some surprising results.



Sir, Tom Ellis (letter, Sept 22) is alive today because sperm donation used to be anonymous.

Had it not been so, there is a good chance he would never have existed, surely a more terrible fate than not knowing your father.

London SW6


Sir, I had the misfortune of being conceived with donor sperm at a time when it was thought acceptable to dupe children about their paternity.

Those who sought an end to anonymity were not arguing that the interests of the child were superior to those of its biological or social parents. To be allowed knowledge of one’s genetic origins and ancestry is merely to be given parity with those who already have this information. Awareness of the identity of one’s parents is a norm within our society; withholding such information, simply to appease the reproductive choices of commissioning parents, is discriminatory.

Donor conception is carried out under the auspices of medical practitioners, who are bound by the Hippocratic Oath “to do no harm”. Success has been measured in the number of live births but rigorous secrecy has prevented any genuine research into the long-term effects of donor conception on the parents who have used it or the people created by it.

Colin Campbell presided over the HFEA before the voices of adults conceived by donor sperm were heard, and there has been growing evidence to suggest that such people, with their unique life experiences, have indeed suffered harm. Their testimonies are too often derided by the fertility industry.

Honiton, Devon


The Times September 22, 2006,,8122-2368771,00.html

Sperm donors and secrecy

Sir, Colin Campbell (letter, September 21) does not mention two other highly adverse effects of the regulations abolishing the anonymity of sperm and egg donors.

As a consequence of this legislation, more couples undergoing these treatments state their firm intention to keep the method of conception secret from any child. This will inevitably be serious for some offspring, who years later — perhaps after acrimony during the break-up of their parents’ marriage — will be deeply disturbed to discover accidentally that one of their parents is not genetically related to them.

It also means that a woman donating eggs to another infertile woman during her own treatment may learn years later after her own treatment has failed that she has a genetic child of whose existence she was not aware.

Sadly, since Sir Colin’s wise leadership, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) failed to consider these concerns seriously and the advice it gave to government over donor identity was flawed.

Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology
Imperial College London


Sir, My father donated his sperm anonymously and I have grown into an adult whose daily life is full of sadness because his identity is withheld from me.

It is ethically unjustifiable to solve a woman’s need for genetically related children (letter, Sept 21) by denying those same children the knowledge of their genetically related father.

Sperm donation is mistakenly seen as advantageous. Unfortunately, the truth is more complex. The current legislation is vital in making sure that future people conceived in this way will avoid the terrible fate that has befallen me.



The Times
September 21, 2006

Donor identity rules and IVF

Sir, I had the privilege of being the founding chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) from 1990 to 1994. At that time, the authority favoured protecting the anonymity of men who donated sperm to assist people with infertility difficulties.
The current regulation follows a different view, stating that children born as a result of IVF should be entitled to seek the identity of their biological father, the sperm donor. This is, as we then predicted, seriously reducing the number of men prepared to donate (report, Sept 14).

It is not sensible to argue that the putative interests — 18 to 20 years from now — of a person not yet conceived, are superior to the legitimate interests of women and their partners who wish to have a baby.

The policy is largely based on the claim that the children who owe their existence to IVF have a right to know their biological father’s identity. Whether one accepts this argument or not, it cannot have much force if the net effect of the policy is that children who would otherwise have come into existence do not now do so because donors cannot be found.

The policy is causing anguish to couples who are unable to conceive without assistance, and putting serious impediments in the way of those otherwise willing to assist with donations. The policy must be changed.

University of Nottingham