Donor-conceived children find answers online

By Dr. Kim Mulvihill  |  Posted Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 4:18pm


Yesterday we told you how a California girl used MySpace to track down her sperm donor dad.

A new survey shows the vast majority of donor-conceived children want to know the identity of the donor. Many are demanding answers about their biology, and in some cases, getting them.

Tens of thousands of babies are born each year to grateful parents, thanks to egg and sperm donations. But now, the children are asking questions.

Virginia is a high school student. "I just want to have basic information that most people have access to," she said.

Armed with the sperm donor's identification number and vague details culled from clinic records, the 15-year-old used MySpace to find her donor dad, Todd Whitehurst.

"She's very bright and did a very good job at piecing everything together," Whitehurst said.

However, another Web site actually casts a bigger net. Wendy Kramer, the founder of Donor Sibling Registry, said, "For people who are curious, people who want to share medical information, people who want to know about their biological and genetic relatives, they can do that on the Donor Sibling Registry."

On the registry, information is posted under the donor's identification number and sperm bank or fertility clinic. Under Todd's id, 2053, Virginia found she has at least nine half siblings across the country.

"I call it my other family," she said. "It's like an attachment to my current one."

She told Todd about the site. He posted information about his own kids. And soon, with Todd as the common denominator, they met the other family: half sibling brothers Gavin from Pennsylvania, Tyler from New York, their mothers, as well as Todd's daughter.

"They got along like family almost instantaneously," Whitehurst said. "It's pretty amazing to see how close of a bond they form just from the get-go."

To date, the registry has matched up nearly 6,000 people, that's half sibling to half sibling as well as donor to offspring.

But one young girl and her mother are still waiting. Eleven years ago, Kathy Dudley-Youngs used anonymous donor sperm to have a child. The little girl started getting headaches, and doctors detected a medical problem.

"They had found a cyst in the middle of her brain, and it looked like it was putting pressure on something," Dudley-Youngs said.

She tried to get updated medical information about "Donor 2598" from the sperm bank but to no avail.

"I think she has a right to the information. If I made a mistake in picking an anonymous donor, Hannah shouldn't have to pay the price," she said.

Hannah said, "Even if he doesn't want to know a lot of stuff about me, I want him to know that I was born."

Hannah and Virginia aren't related, but they're in touch. "We talk on e-mails and we talk about our interests and how we feel about being donor conceived," Hannah said.

Virginia says donors need not fear. They can remain anonymous.

"I don't need any financial help. I'm not looking for a father. I'm looking for a little bit of information," she said.

Information is what donor conceived children want.

Currently most U.S. donors remain anonymous, but that's changing. About one- third of clinics now offer what's called an identity release program. If the donor is willing, when the child turns 18, he or she can petition the clinic for contact information on the donor.

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