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Anonymous Sperm Donation

Scrapbook Can Tell 'Story of Birth'

Sperm banks supply sperm directly to women clients or through intermediaries such as fertility clinics or physician private practices. Although there is little regulation of sperm banks, the sperm banks contacted by WebMD were uniformly in favor of informing the child about the circumstances of their birth.

Sharon Mills of San Francisco-based Pacific Reproductive Services says her company counsels clients to tell their offspring "the story of how they were born."

A good way to do this, she says, is to "have a scrapbook that tells the story. The scrapbook can include pictures of the clinic where the insemination took place, pictures of the pregnant woman, and so on. Every year on their child's birthday the parents can take out the scrapbook and add new birthday pictures while once again reviewing the story."

By using this approach, Mills says, the birth story is so often repeated that it becomes "boring and therefore accepted by the child."

Cordray says that Mills' suggestion is a good one because the most important issue is honesty. Knowing about your origin, he says, "is a civil rights issue."

In this respect, Cordray says that children of donor insemination, or DI children, are very much like adoptees, who have similar concerns about biologic origins.

A separate, and equally difficult issue is donor identity. Should donors be anonymous or identified? Who should know this information? The mother? The child?

Pictures and Videos Attempt to Fill in Blanks

David Towles, director of public relations at Xytex, a sperm bank headquartered in Augusta, Ga., says his company is exploring a whole range of approaches to donor identity.

"In June 1994 we began providing pictures of the donors if the donors agreed," he says. Currently he says his company has head-and-shoulder pictures of about half of the 100 donors in its catalogue.

More recently, Towles says, the company began producing videos of the donors. The videos are filmed in the Zytex offices and then "wherever the donor feels comfortable, perhaps doing some activity he likes such as fishing."

Donors are asked if they are willing to provide this type of information to the mothers and that preference is noted in the catalogue. "Close to 20 donors have agreed to the release of this information," he says.

Towles says the company is also investigating ways to arrange for contact such as an exchange of letters between mothers and donors or between donors and adult offspring.

While Towles says his company is interested in finding new ways to make donor insemination "open," like open adoptions in which adoptive parents know the identities of biological parents, Nancy Pihera, director of Lavista Reproductive Services in Atlanta, points out that there can be legal pitfalls surrounding donor identity. For example, in some states a donor whose identity becomes known could be liable for financial support, she says.

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