IVF and Identity Theft

From Bill Muehlenberg:

There are plenty of problems associated with IVF and related forms of assisted reproductive technologies. I have written about them often, and it seems we keep learning of more drawbacks and difficulties with these procedures. But we often think only about the adults and their wants in these situations. Seldom do we consider the wellbeing of the children so conceived.

How do they perceive their situation? What disadvantages, if any, do they experience? How is their sense of personal history and identity affected by their unique situation? Such questions could not be properly answered until recently. But now that many IVF children are in their twenties, we can begin to find out.

We now have plenty of children conceived by IVF who have spoken of the loss and/or confusion of identity. In an age that emphasizes knowing one’s roots and searching one’s genealogy, the dilemma of IVF children is greatly heightened.

Many were conceived by donor sperm or egg. Some were housed in a surrogate mother. Indeed, for many, there is not a mother and a father, but a gaggle of “parents” and players. They have in effect been raised by a committee, not a mother and father.

There are now heaps of tragic stories to share in this regard. Let me offer a few recent ones. Myfanwy Walker was conceived through an anonymous sperm donor. In her twenties she finally found who the man was. It has been a harrowing experience for her. She is glad she finally discovered her genetic heritage. “But there was a massive amount of loss there for me. There were almost 20 years I could never reclaim, coupled with the realization that I could never have the genetic relationship with my own dad.”

She continues, “Basically my problem is with the ethics of the practice. It doesn’t protect the rights of the child. Once people understand the issues they probably wouldn’t choose to conceive via donor. . . . It should be a question of whether it’s in the interests of the child. You can’t negate that, you really can’t.”

Or consider an even more recent case. Here is how one press account relates the story:

A woman conceived with the help of a sperm donor has taken a rare legal step to find out the identity of her biological father. In a case that could affect thousands of donor-conceived families, Kimberley Springfield has asked a tribunal to overturn a bureaucratic decision that no action be taken to help identify the donor.

Her case comes as state and federal parliamentary inquiries due to report in the coming months consider donor conception and the rights of donor-conceived people to gain access to identifying information about their donors. In submissions to both inquiries, Ms Springfield, 26, whose sister and at least four half siblings were conceived with her biological father’s sperm, said she had suffered mentally, emotionally and physically from being denied knowledge about her family since she found out how she was conceived five years ago.

“I cannot fathom going through life never knowing where I have come from, my ancestry and my identity,” Ms Springfield wrote. “Every day I look at the faces of people around me and wonder: ‘Could you be my father, my half sister, my half brother, my grandparent?’”

Read more: Culture Watch