Looking for Donor Dads

Posted by Jamie D. Brooks February 18, 2008
Biopolitical Times
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Last week the Oprah Winfrey Show featured individuals looking for donor dads. Not single women or infertile couples considering sperm donation, but rather people who are the offspring of third-party sperm providers. According to estimates, at least one million individuals have been conceived in this fashion in the United States alone. Like the prospective parents who turn to sperm donation to complete their families, these donor offspring are looking to complete their families too.

Some of those featured on Oprah's show had fairytale endings to their quests. Gavin, who was conceived with sperm donated by Todd, donor # 2053, searched for and connected with his biological father. Gavin, his mother Cheryl, and Todd have been able to establish a rapport and even take vacations together. Cheryl says, "We are definitely a family."

Others told heartbreaking stories. Susan felt she had been "lied to" when she learned at age 27 that she had been conceived with donor sperm and shared no biological relation with the father who raised her. Susan has been unable to track down her donor dad.

Today, it's a common understanding that children should be told they are the offspring of donors, because they have a right to know their medical history and in order to eliminate the problems created by secrecy within families. The US has no federal regulation around gamete donor identification.

Some experts, like the University of Alberta's Laura Shanner [PDF], argue that it's a child's human right to know his or her genetic identity. Taken together, the tales told on the Oprah episode reinforce the argument that children of sperm donors need to find their biological fathers and half siblings in order to feel complete.