NYT article on serial sperm donors

The New York Times recently published an article by Jacqueline Mroz on serial sperm donors in the New York Times: “The Case of the Serial Sperm Donor- One man, hundreds of children and a burning question: Why?

The article names several private sperm donors who seem to have fathered respectively more than 100 children. One of them, Mr. Meijer from the Netherlands, additionally registered as a sperm donor at several clinics, also internationally. Stichting Donorkind estimates that the number of his children could run to several hundred. Most recipient parents were not aware of his multiple international donations and that their children would be put in the situation of having several hundred half siblings.

The article cites Ties van der Meer of Stichting Donorkind and Christina Motejl of Spenderkinder, both also active for Donor Offspring Europe, both expressing concern about the lack of regulatory and legislative bodies for the international fertility industry land the state of mind of serial sperm donors.

Donor conceived from all over the world unite at the United Nations in November

This year the Convention on the Rights of the Child will have its 30th anniversary. To celebrate this the UN in Geneva is opening her doors to the general public, inviting them to events where topics concerning rights, welfare and best interests of children are going to be discussed.

Stephanie Raeymaekers, a Belgian donor conceived and member of DOE was asked to put a presentation at one of the workshops together. With the help of the Australian researcher Sonia Allan, she reached out to others asking for their contribution as participation.

For the first time in history donor conceived from all over the world will unite and are going to address some of the issues they have to endure due to fact their human rights haven’t been recognised or aknowlegded yet. Among them donor conceived who already made a difference in their own country but also are advocating for international changes so that next generations won’t have to deal with same injustices.

Nationalities present: USA, Canada, Australia, UK, Portugal, The Netherlands, Ireland and Belgium.

If you want to attend the workshop please register before the 11th of November through https://reg.unog.ch/event/28741/. You must register for an INDIGO account first, then go back to original link, and then select register. Our session is on Tuesday 19 November at 11 a.m., Room XXI, Workshop: Children’s Rights in the Age of Biotechnology.

Documentary “Les enfants du secret”

Arte currently features the documentary “Les enfants du secret” about the situation of donor conceived persons in France. The director Rémi Delescluse is donor conceived himself and takes the viewers along on his search for his genetic father. In France, donor conceived persons are not allowed to receive any information about their genetic father. On his journey, Rémi interviews several doctors who created the system, donors and meets other donor conceived persons (amongst them many members of PMA). He also accompanies several members of PMA who finally find their genetic relatives with the help of commercial DNA tests (which many donor conceived persons use nowadays successfully in their search). It is a beautiful and touching documentary and we hope that it will deepen the sympathy and understanding for the demands and wishes of donor conceived persons in France and Europe.

The movie is available in French and in a dubbed German version and can be viewed on Arte’s website until 6 September 2019.

Public event in London on 19 June 2019: Anonymous No More? Donor Conception and Direct-to-Consumer DNA Testing

It is a current saying amongst donor conceived persons that Donor Anonymity is actually dead – thanks to modern direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests like Ancestry, 23andme, Family Finder or MyHeritage DNA. A person might discover from a DTC genetic test that they are donor-conceived, or discover the identity of the donor from whose sperm or eggs they were conceived. They might also discover the identity of genetic half-siblings, conceived from the sperm or eggs of the same donor. The persons who are identified do not even need to be registered at the test because they can be tracked with the help of relatives who are registered. This is of course a threat to the reproductive industry, which has been relying on donor anonymity for a very long time. One academic from Belgium even demanded to ban access to DTC tests to protect the anonymity of donors.

The Progress Educational Trust in partnership with the University of Liverpool is holding an event to discuss the impact of Direct to Consumer DNA testing on anonymity in London on Wednesday 19th 2019 from 6.30pm-8.15pm. The European Sperm Bank and the London Women’s Clinic is providing additional funding. The event will be co-chaired by Sarah Norcross and Dr Lucy Frith, with speakers including Debbie Kennett, Andy Waters, Becky Gardiner and Louise Johnson. Attendance at this event is free, but advance registration is required.

We are glad that one of the speakers, Becky Gardiner, is donor conceived and can report about the importance of DNA tests from first hand. DOE-member Shirley, who is Becky’s half sister, will also be attending.

Netherlands: Donorkind Protests Against Ads For Spanish Fertility Clinic

This week an advertisement appeared on Dutch TV for IVF Spain, a fertility clinic offering treatment with anonymously donated sperm and eggs: something which has been banned in the Netherlands since 2004.

It is not the first time that IVF Spain has directly targeted the Dutch market. Their website is fully translated into Dutch (as well as German, French and English), they advertise the use of anonymous gametes prominently, and they regularly hold meetings in the Netherlands for people interested in their services.

For Donorkind – the Dutch organisation representing donor conceived people – it is unacceptable for IVF Spain to advertise services which are illegal in the Netherlands. Everyone has the right to their genetic history. Knowing where you come from, and your medical background, is not a trivial point. It is an essential part of every person’s identity.

Donorkind therefore immediately took action. Together with the Donor Detectives we contacted many organisations and people in the Netherlands: politicians, the press, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Advertising Standards Association and the Children’s Ombudsman.

We expect any company advertising in the Netherlands to respect Dutch law, rather than offering ways to get around national legislation. Furthermore, it is important for prospective parents to realise that the promise of anonymity is merely an illusion.

In the current age of direct-to-consumer DNA tests (which are only growing in popularity), donor conceived people can discover how they were conceived with relative ease. If not told the truth by their parents at an early age, this discovery can lead to an identity crisis for donor conceived people and cause tension within the family.

Germany: New donor registry starts on 1 July

On 1 July 2018, Germany finally established a donor registry as the the Sperm Donor Registry Act (SaRegG – Samenspenderregistergesetz) became effective. The Act provides for a central registry, the Samenspender-Register, at the German Institute for Medical Documentation and Information (DIMDI) in Cologne, where doctors have to transfer identifying data about the donor and the mother as name, address, nationality, and place of birth. The sperm donor will be invited to leave additional information about himself for the child.

Donor conceived persons have a right to access information about their donor from 16 years of age. This is, however, not a minimum age as the parents of the donor conceived child can demand the identifying data for the child.The data will be retained for 110 years.

Spenderkinder, the association of donor conceived adults in Germany, welcomes the creation of a central registry where donor conceived persons can get information about their biological father. This is a step long overdue. Although anonymous sperm donations were never legal in Germany, doctors allegedly destroyed data on sperm donations after only ten years in the past.

Unfortunately, the registry has no retroactive effect, meaning that it will only retain data from sperm donations from 1 July onwards. This means that donor conceived persons conceived before this date will have to demand identifying information about their biological fathers from the fertility clinics. At least, the retainment period for such data was extended to 110 years. Accordingly, any destruction of data currently available is prohibited.

As a second point of criticism, the registry will neither provide information about donor siblings nor control that a single donor can only sire a certain numer of donor children. Also, the registry will not retain data about so called embryo donation.1

The Act also excludes the possibility to have the sperm donor declared as the legal father in order to protect sperm donors against claims for child support or inheritance from any children resulting from donated sperm. Although this corresponds with the legal situation in many other countries, there are serious concerns that the amendment violates the constitutional right of donor conceived persons to an equal treatment. Persons conceived „naturally“ are entitled to have their biological father also determined as legal father. It would provide sufficient protection for sperm donors to simply exclude any rights to support or inheritance.

  1. While egg donation is not allowed in Germany, the procurement of embryos whose biological parents do not longer want a child is a legal loophole. []

France reviews its laws on bioethics

Every 7 years, France has to review its laws on bioethics. The laws were last reviewed in 2011 so this year the law is due to be reviewed and so a debate has been raging in France since January: as this is France the controversies have, of course, turned into yet another national crisis. People from every background and discipline are engaged in a war of words in what we call the”Etats-Généraux,” in reference to our beloved revolution.

Nonetheless we donor conceived people believe that our country has never been so close to changing the rules about anonymity of donors. Most of our intellectuals and politicians now seem to be in favour of a system like the UK and with the developments in other European countries, France becomes more isolated every year. These facts weigh greatly on our progressive and Europe friendly president, Emmanuel Macron.

This summer France’s high bioethical council must issue a very important report on all subjects including access to the origins of donor conceived people in both the future and retrospectively. It is crucial that the outline of the future law must be discussed by parliament by the end of 2018.

Vincent Brès, président de l’association PMAnonyme

Issues regarding Donor Conception at UN event

On the 6th of March, Steph of Donorkinderen Belgium was invited by the European Centre for Law and Justice to come and speak at their event at the United Nations in Geneva. Other speakers were the British donor conceived Dr. Joanna Rose and professor Clotilde Brunette-Pons.

Steph did an awesome job – you can watch the video of her speech on youtube or read it on Donorkinderen’s website. You can also watch a video of Joanna’s speech “Respect my right to know my biological father”. 

Many thanks to the European Centre for Law and Justice for hearing them out. Let us hope that some day the voices of donor offspring will not only be heard at a UN side event, but in the main room.

Belgium: artist’s go-head to be legally recognized as king’s daughter could grant all children access to their true origins

On 3 February 2016, the Belgium Constitutional Court ruled that the right to know who your biological father is, is more important than the prevailing age limit of 22 years to revoke a paternity.  Steph, a Belgian donor conceived and President of Donorkinderen writes about the implications of the judgment on donor conceived persons in Belgium:

Delphine Boël was born on February 22nd 1968. She is the love child conceived during the alleged affair between her mother Baroness Sybille De Sleys Longschamps and former Belgian King Albert. It is claimed that their relationship lasted from 1966 to 1982.

At the moment of her birth, her mother was married to a nobleman named Jacques Boël. As legislation determines the names of the married couple were automatically put on her birth certificate. Delphine received his family name and is officially the only daughter of Jacques Boël. Her legal father has never revoked his paternity. The couple divorced back in 1987.

A number of years ago Delphine’s mother spoke candidly about the alleged affair in the TV documentary “Our daughter’s name is Delphine”. She talked about many things: about their first encounter, his visit on the maternity ward but also about the many times when he came over to spend time with her and Delphine. Their relationship ended abruptly. The Royal Palace rarely commented on this matter, but when they did they painted everything off as ‘gossip’.

However, during his annual Christmas speech in 1999 King Albert would, for the first time, vaguely admit to Delphine’s existence. He said: “Christmas offers each of us a good opportunity to reflect on our own family where we look back on the happy but also the difficult days. The Queen and I have remembered many happy times, but also the crisis that we as couple have endured, now thirty years ago. Together, we have managed to overcome these difficulties and for long we have regained a deep love and harmony. Recently we were reminded of this crisis period. We do not wish to talk about it. It belongs to our private life. However, should our life experience help or encourage others who recently experience similar difficulties, it would rejoice us.”

Over the years Delphine and her mother have been seeking official recognition that she is King Albert’s daughter, yet every attempt has failed so far.

Delphine is an artiste who studied at the Chelsea School of Art and Design. Currently she is living in London. Her artwork often refers to the denial she suffered by her biological father.

In 2013 Delphine went to the civil court to revoke Jacques Boël’s paternity. It is a first necessary step to be able and demand a paternity test of former King Albert in order to prove the kinship. By law Delphine Boël is too old for this to happen because this procedure has to be initiated before you turn 22 or within a year of learning that your parent is not your parent. The civil court passed the case to the Constitutional court.

On the 3rd of February 2016 the court has ruled on two important principles:

  • The court ruled that the right to know who your biological father is, is more important than the 22 year age limit and that, consequently, Delphine Boël need not comply with the legal age limit.
  • Possession of the state: to the outside world, Delphine Boël was always Jacques Boël’s daughter. According to this rule lineage cannot be disputed. The Constitutional court had to decide whether that rule is absolute.The court has ruled that this rule is NOT absolute and that knowing your true parentage is more important than existing family ties or the distress it will cause within other families.

On both principals the court ruled accordingly to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Delphine can now go ahead with her initial court case. Her legal father already did DNA-test that showed that he was not her biological father.

The ruling in this case can have huge implications not only for Delphine and her family, but it also urges for a total reformation of our current Family Law. At first it should allow all human beings to be granted recognition but also the possibility to know ones true biological ancestry regardless of the way it is conceived.

Secondly, in the verdict the non-biological connection causes a legal disconnection. This means that every child who has a non-biological parent on its birth certificate, can legally challenge this to obtain certainty about his or her biological identity.

The ruling can be also applied for donor conceived persons. For them the violation of their human rights occurs on three different levels. Not only does our government allow and facilitate third party reproductive treatments, it also deliberately denies donor-conceived offspring access and knowledge about their true ancestry. Our government even provides for their incomplete, and therefor incorrect, birth certificates. Basically this is fraud.

We want to urge our politicians to finally step up and take upon their responsibility by recognizing that there are a lot of inconsistencies in our current legislation. A new Family Law needs to be established in Belgium, in which the right of a child to know it’s biological identity is regarded as a fundamental principle. It is the only way to ensure legal certainty for all parties involved. If not great concern, distress and dramas will be inevitable. Parents themselves can also file lawsuits to contest the paternity. There are already lawsuits pending.

For those who think that Delphine started her lawsuit out of financial gain: that is not the case. She has got more to lose than to gain. No fortune is bigger than of Jacques Boël. By questioning his paternity she will lose her financial resources.

Delphine just wants to know where she comes from so she will finally know who she really is. She wishes no longer to be denied nor walk through life undefined. Every child originates from a biological mother and father. The recognition of ones origins should not depend on the (lack of) judgement of people who refuse to take their responsibility.

She aspires no fame, nor an iconic status. Since 2013 she has our complete support in her quest to be recognized by her biological father. Like no other we understand the pain that occurs when a fundamental question remains unanswered. It is suffering we share with illegitimate children, adoptees and foundlings. In a way you could say that we are all a bit Delphine.