Donor Sibling Registry

Victoria Ferrara

1/20/17

In the year 2000, a mother and her son teamed up to form the non-profit organization known as The Donor Sibling Registry. Their goal was to connect individuals conceived from sperm, egg or embryo donation. They help these people make mutually desired contact with others whom they share genetic ties with. Today, the site is home to over 50,000 people.

Through the founder's many media appearances and interviews (such as The Oprah Winfrey Show and 60 Minutes), the DSR has single-handedly pioneered a national discussion about the donor conception industry and families. They advocate for the right to honesty and transparency for donor kids, and for social acceptance, legal rights and valuing the diversity of all families; anyone with a brother or sister has the right to know about their existence. The DSR spreads the conviction that people have the fundamental right to information about their biological origins and identities.

The donor conception industry is largely a for-profit enterprise, and after the "product" has been purchased, most doctors, clinics, egg donation agencies and cryobanks do not engage in discussions and activities which acknowledge the humanity and rights of the donor-conceived. Some parents of these children keep the child in the dark about their origins. It is possible that only 30% of these parents tell their child the truth.

Anyone who is a sperm/egg donor, recipient parent or a donor conceived person is eligible to join the site. When a child is born through donor insemination, they are given a "donor number" corresponding to the person they anonymously received a sperm or egg donation from. Because a donor can donate multiple times, often two or more children are created from the same donor. When multiple users sign up with the same donor, a "match" is created. 78% of users instantly match with a previously unknown relative. Most commonly, matches are made between half-siblings of sperm donation; however, there are numerous cases of donor-offspring matches as well.

Controversy has arisen as to whether or not anonymity of sperm donation ultimately hurts the donor's offspring. One can argue that donor anonymity benefits sperm banks instead of families, allowing the banks to sell sperm without tracking how many children are born as a result. About 1,200 donors are registered on the DSR website. One found out he'd fathered 125 children. Furthermore, anonymity prevents donors from sharing updated medical information with their biological children. For the mother, the man is her sperm donor; for the child, he's their biological father.

However, for every child with a burning curiosity about his or her donor, there's another with only mild interest, or none at all. These children don't see their family and circumstances as any different from those with normally-conceived children. To them, the parents who raised them are 100% their true parents. They have no desire to discover or forge a relationship with their biological father. Since he played no fatherly role, they don't see him as a father in any way. Others might fear that discovering him would demean the bond with their adoptive parents; acknowledging him is to acknowledge that their adoptive parents aren't their real parents. They're happy with their parent-child relationship and don't want anything to change.

For those who do wish to uncover their origin, the Donor Sibling Registry is the golden treasure map. For others, acknowledging a connection is understandably scary. Whatever the case, the DSR will continue to solve donor mysteries, eliminate curiosities, and bring biological relatives together.

*Please note: This is a general synopsis. You should speak with your healthcare provider for more information and details about your individual process.   

Works Cited

Kramer, Wendy. "Our History And Mission | Donor Sibling Registry." Our History And Mission | Donor Sibling Registry. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2017.

Marquardt, Karen Clark and Elizabeth. "New study shows sperm-donor kids suffer." Slate Magazine. N.p., 14 June 2010. Web. 12 Jan. 2017.

Papas, Stephanie. "Sperm Donor Anonymity Sparks Controversy Among Offspring." LiveScience. Purch, 25 Sept. 2010. Web. 12 Jan. 2017.

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