In today’s world, we are able to discover just about anything we want to know about our family origin and history. In recent years, we have heard stories of individuals seeking DNA testing to learn more about their ancestral origins, linking them to other individuals that share their DNA within a social network and potentially connecting with family members that they didn’t even know existed.
We’ve heard about donor siblings finding each other on the internet through resources now available through social media or available registries that currently exist for related donor children to seek and find each other, as well as, their genetic donor.
What is a Known Donor?
With an open (known) donor, the donor agrees to allow a child the right to know who the donor is, have potential contact and be able to meet other half-siblings, depending on the facility utilized and the existence of a registry.
A modified open donor agreement may include a more detailed medical history and/or an opportunity to a meet with the child at the age of 18, and may or may not include a meeting with perspective intended parents before they’re matched; while a fully open donor might exchange legal names and emails, meeting before and after the donation, basically anything both parties are comfortable with in the future, but does not generally become part of the child’s day to day life.
With an anonymous donor, information such as race, religion, education and medical history are available to the donor child, but even after the child reaches majority, the donor’s identity is never intended to be disclosed.
Why Choose a Known Donor?
Some reasons include the ability to fully know the donor’s background, diminish fears of hidden physical or mental health disease, ability to have ongoing medical history for a child, provide familiar genetic background and lastly a form of comfort in the familiar. Reasons to choose an anonymous donor may include a discomfort with the genetic parent being in the child’s life, a diminishment of their unique parental role, a fear of donor attachment to the child and a fear of the child attaching to the donor.
In all cases, legal documents are required to form a sperm or egg donor agreement that defines in detail all aspects of the relationship, regardless of whether a known or an unknown donor is chosen. Donor agreements detail such things as potential health and medical issues, duty to report to donor families in the future if new medical issues arise or are discovered, if the sharing or reporting of birth dates and sex of current and future born children will be disclosed, what, if any, future contact will occur, the issue of registration on public or private registries, and what level of confidentiality and privacy is expected by all parties liable under the contract.
Other Issues to Consider
Regardless of whether you choose an anonymous or known donor, many parents wonder when is the right time, if any, to disclose to a donor child that they have a parent that is not biologically related to them. Recent studies have shown that there is a window of opportunity during child development where it may be best to talk to the child about the unique way the family was made. Disclosing the information allows parents to control “telling the story.” It also avoids the necessity of an emergency disclosure due to medical issues, or even worse, after a parent has passed away and disclosure is unavailable. It also diminishes the threat of a feeling of betrayal or deception by a parent. Disclosure can build a trust among family members which allows the donor child to know about their genetics, medical history and allows the possibility of having answers to questions and gaining a sense of identity together with their parents.
It is equally important for intended parents and prospective donors to consider their feelings with regard to open or modified open contact before finalizing the donation, and it is vital to take into consideration any potential value to both the donor and donor child as donor-conceived children seek to know their genetic roots. Becoming a parent through donor gametes is not only about achieving a successful pregnancy, but also ensuring future rights of your children and taking the time to envision future implications for your child.
heARTbeat is a publication of KingSpry’s Adoption Law and Assisted Reproductive Technology Law Practice Group. It is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal advice.