The anonymity and confidentiality in donor gametes is coming under debate. Before this matter is disussed, it is imperative to note some key facts:
- People come forward to donate their gametes knowing full well that the process is confidential and anonymous, implying that their limited responsibility is well understood.
- Recipients receive donor gametes after an extensive soul searching to accept the confidentiality and anonymity.
- South African egg donation and sperm donation processes works and is very well estalished and experienced as a professional and reputable process, in fact highly sought after from all corners of the globe.
Recent media features have mentioned that children conceived of donor gametes may seek out the genetic donor for medical and/ or emotional reasons.
Medically speaking, recipients receive quite an extensive medical profile of their donor with as much known information as is possible. Accordingly, the only secret is really the name and identity of the donor, which for purposes of this process is really not relevant for either the recipient or donor conceived children. For these families, this information may even be more than for children who have been abandoned by their genetic parents or even where relationships have been severed with other family members.
Media refers to persons who may seek out their genetic donors for emotional motivations. The reality is that tha vast majority of recipients have elected to keep the donor conception aspect quite private, even from their own biological child. Their views are that life imposes so many challenges. Keeping this tiny fact contained to only the biological parents restricts further complexities that such parents feel are quite unnecessary, when their motivation all along was to bring this life into their family to love and provide for them to the best of their ability unconditionally.
Emotionally, the intent for donors was never to have an emotional connection. Forcing known/ identifying options may open up feelings of rejection when the actual arrangement was really all about love. The possibilities for dissatisfactory situations these scenarios is limitless:
- Extended families of donors and recipients may have strong opposing views to the donation conception inviting feelings that have not been adequately managed between the donor conceived child as well as these genetically related family members, who may not be in a position/ want to accept this person.
- A donor who has lost a child may want to ignite a relationship wih a donor conceived child who is not open to this and cannot relate to this person/ relationship.
- A donor who always wanted daughters may subconsiously discredit her biological children if she finds her donor conceived offspiring were in fact girls.
- The same can be true if donor conceived children are fairing better or worse than the donor-conceived children's siblings. Unwarranted interferences and emotions will surface without the full understanding of the life that has actually contributed to this situation.
- Siblings of children conceived of the donors in their own realtionships feel that they have new relationships which require nurturing or attention, which was never the intent.
- Unwarranted and immature comments by ill informed persons may present themselves to the donor conceived child, such as "this is not your real child" or " You are not my real mom/ dad".
- Opening up identification and/ or 'knowingness' increases complexities where persons never wanted this. This situation can only really be well managed where there is consensus among all impacting parties, which can never be possible.
- Recipients may select a donor who has a similar physical trait but may not adopt such a donor's views/ morals or ways of life. Opening up communication to persons from completely differing outlooks potentially imposes conflicts of peace of mind and feelings of uneasiness.
Children conceived of donor gametes are very much wanted and planned. Such parents are of the appropriate emotional maturity to fully digest and accept this anonymity. For the recipients, it may mean many years of accepting this treatment and/ or considering other options to be in a position to proceed with peace. The professional and well experienced donor processes in South Africa adequately manage this. This is very different to adoption, where a specific intent is undertaken in an attempt to conceive a child with donor gamete.
Donors come on board knowing and understanding full well that their contribution is limited in terms of time and emotion. Bringing donors on board for a lifelong undertaking that at some point, a relationship/ identity may surface is almost too big to ensure confirmation at one point in time. This will result in a far great screening cost as a more extensive psychological assessment will be required and a fixed updated registry of donor's whereabouts will need to be implemented and managed. Due to the enormity of the potential relationship, it is anticipated that the particpation of donors will be quite uncertain. The complex emotions of the donor plus supporting persons in their lives may challenge their complete participation. There is also a perception that it may be quite unfair to impose such a responsibilty on such a young person. Donors are not parents and such the empowering of true parenthood with the recipient along the confidentiality and anonymity notion supports this - putting responsiblity with those who want and are ready to accept it. Biologically, donors contribute a tiny piece of their human tissue and motivations to expand this contribution to responsibilities, relationships and disclosures far exceed the basic need to help.
Persons from those countries who have abolished confidentiality aspects are those same persons that are in fact flocking to South Africa to find these donors who have signed up for confidentiality reasons and for those who wish to conceive knowing there is full protection for their child from unwanted relationships.
Gamete donation can be compared to blood donation. There is a willing donor - consenting to anonymous donation and there is a recipient who graciously accepts this blood, with no further questions asked.
Gamete donation is a highly controversial topic and one not accepted by all. Restrictions of confidentiality and anonmity protect innocent persons in this process who may become victimised by those with strong opposing views.
Infertlity imposes a situation where for some there are no other options. It is essential to always remember that these donor conceived children were conceived through donor gamete after a deliberate effort of planning, donor gamete acceptance, fertility treatment and costs - all in the name of love, the opportunity to share such love with this child that would not have otherwise been. Whilst the make-up of families may be changing - responsibilty, understanding and respect remain key. Maintaining and enforcing anonymity and confidentiality of donor gametes is a crucial to supporting these core values.