In 1979, when Aaron* answered a call for volunteer research participants at Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital, he was surprised to find himself signing up to a sperm donation program. Now, more than 35 years later, Aaron has connected with two of his donor offspring and is seeking contact with others.
What were the early days of donor conception like in Victoria? Here is a snapshot of the experience of a counsellor and parent from the Royal Women's Hospital. You may also be interested in the 2018 Louis Waller Lecture about the early days of donor conception in Victoria.
The increasing popularity of DNA ancestral testing such as 23andme and ancestry.com means that some people are finding out that they are not genetically connected with family members in the way that they may have thought. At the same time, there are those who have done DNA tests and found themselves matching with strangers whose relationship to them may be described as parent or half sibling.
The Donor Legacy Project aims to provide resources that can assist donors to create and submit information to the Voluntary Register. We use the word ‘legacy’ in our title as we are aware that many donors are aging, may be unwell or unfortunate circumstances may occur. By documenting information or creating a legacy, offspring will be able to grasp an understanding of the donor.
The issue of anonymous sperm donation has been under the spotlight of late in Victoria, partly due to changes in legislation, partly as a result of VARTA’s exhibition, ‘Donor conception: towards openness’, and now because of the ABC documentary ‘Sperm Donors Anonymous’.
When donor conception was first practised, sperm and egg donations were made anonymously. Historically, parents were encouraged to maintain secrecy about their donor treatment. Time has shown that this approach may not have been in the best interests of the child born.
Over the last few decades many thousands of people have been born as a result of donor sperm or eggs in Victoria. As they reach adulthood, some yearn to know more about their genetic origins and some donors want to know more about the people they helped conceive. Donor linking is the process by which donor-conceived people (DCP), parents of donor-conceived children and donors can access information about each other.
Victoria's sperm donor laws yield some surprises, but mostly happy ones
At least half of the donors who had donated anonymously were in favour of their offspring being able to know their identity. Shutterstock
Helen* was conceived using donor sperm. Her sperm donor died before she was able to contact him, but she has since connected with her donor’s son and with other donor-siblings through the Voluntary Register.
When did you find out that you were donor-conceived? How was that experience?