Wednesday, September 07, 2011

One Sperm Donor, 150 Children, the Century+ Dad

We all remember the uproar about the Octomom and her eight children conceived by ARTs.

I couldn't help but think about the vast difference between her and the man who was reported in the news today to have fathered more than 150 offspring.

A few years ago, the Religious Institute published an "Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Assisted Reproductive Technologies" which recognized that "the broad spectrum of assisted reproductive technologies calls for deeply personal and complex moral decisions that are unprecedented in human history." Although the letter does not address the number of sperm or egg donations, it does raise the issues of the impact of ARTs on families and children, including advocating for regulations to safeguard health (both physical and emotional) and prevent negative outcomes.

I can't help but think that the children of this man on discovering their more than 150 plus half siblings won't be affected, and that religious leaders and theologians need to be part of considering what the limits should be.

What do you think?


Unknown said...

Two of my under-40 church members have children via donor, and in both cases they are making a new kind of extended family with the donor's other children. I'm at a loss for how to relate to this, because although I am open-minded, I find it uncomfortably complicated. It's interesting that one of the moms was told there wouldn't be other related children in the immediate geographic area, but that hasn't proven to be true, and the New York Times article about the Donor to 150 made it clear that the children *will* likely be in the same area. This raises all sorts of concerns about unintentional incest when the children grow up.

Anonymous said...

"won't be affected"? How could one not be affected by finding out one has 150 siblings rather than 4 or 5 or 10?

Unknown said...

I hadn't even thought about this in this particular context, but I'm glad you brought it up. It seems, at first blush, highly irresponsible. And it is.

I can think of several potential issues - particularly if such irresponsibility were to go on for several generations. Any destructive genetic material will be magnified this way. This is one reason why ranchers are very careful to expose their cows to different bulls when they are trying to build their herd.

On the other hand, it isn't quite the same as the Octomom. First is the damage done to her body - eight kids, one at a time, isn't kind to a woman's body. All at once is...I can't imagine.

Second, her decision to carry them all to term meant a drastic increase in probabilities for birth defects.

There is also the economic a sperm donor, each of those kids has another person who is dedicated to supporting them financially. Her decision to keep them all practically guarantees a life of poverty for all involved.

I find myself wondering how so many women have chosen the same donor.

Amy said...

There are sperm banks that put a reasonable limit on the number of offspring a donor can have. I know the American Society of Reproductive Medicine suggests a figure (I don't know what it is). Sperm banks are regulated, so a sensible guideline could be made law. And yes, we should be making those

I'm very uncomfortable with the term "Octomom." Like most cases of likening humans to other animals, it seems derogatory to me--in this case, of the children as well as of the mom. Pioneering ethics for assisted reproduction situations requires, first of all, treating all of the people involved with full dignity, beginning with the kids.

Nicholas Barnard said...

I think there should be a limit of say 15 children per zygote donor. This is in line with the British policies which limit them to a similar number.

Sadly, this is yet another spot where capitalism has trumped good science and common sense.

Amy said...


I'm at a loss for how to relate to this, because although I am open-minded, I find it uncomfortably complicated.

I'm a parent of a child conceived by donor insemination, and I would be happy to tell you (offline if you wish details--you can reach me by clicking on my name), how a pastor could help us and our daughter with the complications. The first step might be to recognize that families are usually more complicated than those little cartoons on cars' rear windows suggest--in other words, these particular technologies are fairly new, but complex family situations are as old as humanity.

Anonymous said...

My experience as a member of a reproductive health clinic's ethics committee echoes the article; the clinics have long resisted any regulation. I think the Warnock Report sounds sane and appropriate and wish for much more stringent regulation for sperm and embryo donation.

I am glad that there are ways the children born via the same sperm donor are able to connect with one another. Many of us who are part of the "new" forms of family have created honest, ethical kinship relationships with known (and unknown) donors and their families.


p.s. Anonymous: My assumption is that Debra's double-negatives might be confusing. I read it that it seems impossible that the children *wouldn't* be affected. Debra, can you clarify?

Lauren said...

I am an undergrad student at UMass Amherst and I am writing an article for my journalism class specifically on donor families. Would you be willing to answer a few questions for me? My e-mail is please contact me if you wouldn't mind me interviewing you.