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Paternity Crisis and Sperm Donor Anonymity


Ever since the right to anonymity for sperm donors was taken away in 2005, the sperm donor market hit a crisis. Before then, there were thousands of men happy to donate their sperm – either to be charitable or to make an easy buck. But now, donating sperm is much more than a simple one-off act, it can leave you with a child who knows your name.

Simple DNA Test Proves Paternity

Now, if a child has suspicions about their father, they can do a simple DNA test with consent to prove paternity when they reach the age of 18. But the removal of anonymity for the practice of sperm donation caused a massive crisis in sperm donors in 2005, revealing the fact that many donors simply don’t want to be tracked down. Then, many women had to turn to the American market because of the resulting shortage of donated sperm. For some men, even if a DNA test proves paternity, they simply do not want the responsibility of having a child. And donating sperm is certainly not the same as conceiving a child in a stable, loving relationship. Some experts believe that the notion that a child’s parentage should now be declared on their birth certificate will only exacerbate the sperm donor shortage.

Genetics, DNA and Willing Sperm Donors

The idea that in 18 years’ time a grown child could be knocking on the door of a sperm donor opens up a whole can of psychological and emotional worms. Although many believe it’s important that a child has the right to know their DNA father – least of all because a DNA test can help reveal genetic problems or health issues – others think it will mean many infertile couples will be unable to find a willing sperm donor.

A DNA Test and the Right to Know

Some experts argue that it’s more important to have anonymous donors then it is for a child to have a ‘right to know’ who their genetic father is – either through a DNA test or through documentation on their birth certificate. The idea of genetic identity has even been dismissed as a ‘fashionable indulgence’. A DNA test may reveal the truth about a person’s parentage or genetic history, but it could be argued that lying in families should not be a matter of legislation, but it’s up to the parents as to how and if they tell their child they are the result of donated sperm or eggs. Being loved and wanted is considered to be more valuable than genetics and DNA. But the fact is, many children are eager to know who their genetic parents are. And even if the legislation to disclose such information on birth certificates isn’t passed, there will still be many 18-year-olds searching out their roots and finding conclusive answers through a DNA test.

Further reading about Sperm Donors

In April 2005, the right to anonymity for sperm donors ended following a change in the law. As a result, there has been a huge drop in the number of sperm donations and some are saying there is now a shortage. So are sperm donors ready for fatherhood?

Canadian film maker Barry Stevens made a documentary, My Sperm Donor Dad, following his search for his ‘real’ father. At the age of 18 he discovered he’d been conceived through artificial insemination. Read the full story.