Sperm donation worries then and now

We've learned a thing or two about sperm donation over the years.

2 minute read

Progress may be slow, but it's progress nonetheless. The key is to listen. The other key is to ask questions. The other key is to be willing to change our minds based on the evidence.

Below, a short tally of our shifting worries.

What we worried about then

that the dad would be embarrassed

that the mom would be embarrassed

that the donor would be embarrassed

that the mom would sue for child support

that the child would want to live with the sperm donor

that the child would just be confused if they found out

What we worry about now

that the child might suffer because they don't know

that the child might suffer because they find out at a bad time

that anonymity is used to hide how large donor families are

that anonymity is used to hide that the wrong donor was used

that anonymity is used to hide the fact that doctors sometimes use their own sperm

that sperm banks don't always honour their commitment to open-identity

that offspring may be sexually attracted to each other and not know they’re siblings

What sperm banks worry about

that donors will find out how many offspring they have

that parents will find out how many siblings their kids have

that donors will do the math and figure out how much money banks have made off them

that parents will realize there isn't enough medical screening

that they'll be sued

that donors will realize that genetic testing means anonymity is dead

that some donors won't donate if they are told the truth about anonymity

that at some point donors will realize that donating is more than just "providing a sample"

that some donors will embrace knowing their donor offspring

that donors and offspring will communicate with each other and learn these truths

What we have learned

that many offspring are deeply curious

that some offspring just don't care

that deceit is worse than embarrassment

that many offspring are harmed by not knowing or by not being able to know

that it's possible to be deeply curious and to love your parents

that knowing half-siblings can be meaningful

that donor half-siblings are a lot like other siblings — some good, some meh

that wanting to know about your donor is different from wanting to live with him

that knowing your medical history can sometimes save your life

that a donor child becomes an adult, with the same rights and the same desire for connectedness as everyone else

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Note: The final item under “what we worry about now” was added at the suggestion of multiple readers.