Congratulations to all at the Donor Conception Network on the exciting new children’s book they’ve commissioned and had published about being donor conceived. ‘Archie Nolan: Family Detective’ aims to tackle the issues young people may face around this, and is targeted at eight to twelve year olds.
If you’re based in Northern Ireland, you may be interested in a one-day conference on donor treatment to be held in Belfast on 19 September at the Malone Lodge Hotel.
The conference is organised by Northern Ireland Fertility Counselling Service and it will be of interest to anyone considering donor treatment or those who are parents after donor treatment as well as anyone working in the field. A range of leading experts are speaking including Dr Marilyn Crawshaw from York University, Dr Petra Nordqvist from Manchester University, Rosetta Wotton from the HFEA, Jane Ellis who is a trainer with the Donor Conception Network and the mother of donor-conceived adults, Danny Ruddock, another Donor Conception Network trainer and father of donor-conceived children and Kate Litwinczuk who is a Donor Conception Network member and was herself donor-conceived.
It promises to be a very interesting day – and you can find out more here
If you live within reach of Glasgow, and want to know more about fertility, put the date March 7 in your diary as the Infertility Network Scotland team are organising a fertility information day. Open to everyone whether you’re at the very start of your journey or already having treatment, the day includes a wide range of speakers on all aspects of fertility and treatment. There will be talks on the basics, donor treatment, male factor fertility problems, embryology, nutrition for fertility and the emotional impact of fertility problems.
Tickets are just £5 in advance, and £10 for professionals working in the field. It promises to be a fascinating day – you can book or find out more here
The National Gamete Donation Trust, a charity which supports egg, sperm and embryo donation, is looking for trustees. The Trust works with donors, recipients and clinics and helps to raise awareness of the need for gamete donation. It also manages the voluntary contact register which helps donor-conceived people born before 1991 to get in touch with their donors and half-siblings, and is currently working to bring the first national sperm bank to the UK.
The Trust is looking for enthusiastic people to join the Board of Trustees, and would be particularly interested in anyone with skills in human resources, business development and/or performance management, communications particularly with knowledge of social media, writing and editing or developing grant applications and business cases
Trustees will attend at least two annual meetings in central London, and will be expected to contribute actively to the work of the charity. If you’d like to know more, or might be interested in applying, you can find out more at the National Gamete Donation Trust website – http://www.ngdt.co.uk/
If you know you may need to use a donor if you’re going to conceive, you are bound to consider the impact this might have on your future family – and particularly how any child you may have will feel about being donor-conceived. It can feel a daunting prospect, and it is fears about this which sometimes make parents worry about whether to tell their children.
Now, two new films from the Donor Conception Network give a really interesting insight into how it feels to be donor-conceived as they feature young people whose parents used donor gametes to have them talking about their thoughts and feelings. You can buy them on a DVD which has two films, one featuring young people who are growing up in families with heterosexual parents, and one featuring those who are growing up in lesbian families or with single mothers.
Having seen the films, I would highly recommend them to anyone who is considering donor conception. They are really moving, incredibly reassuring and show that what really matters to the young people is being in a loving family; being donor-conceived is something that can be a totally normal and accepted part of life to young people who grow up knowing how they were conceived. You can find out more and buy the DVD at www.dcnetwork.org
When I got my copy of Letters to my Donor from the National Gamete Donation Trust, I was about to leave the house to go to a meeting – so I put it in my bag to read on the tube. It’s a compilation of letters from parents of donor-conceived children to the donors who helped them to have their children. Most have never met the people whose generosity enabled them to conceive, and I was only a couple of letters in when I found myself sitting in a crowded tube train with tears streaming down my cheeks and getting some slightly odd looks from other passengers.
It’s an incredibly moving book – for the parents, the opportunity to thank someone for a gift which has transformed their lives is overwhelming and many begin by noting that words can’t begin to explain how grateful they are for the chance to have a family. There are letters from people who’ve used egg donors, sperm donors and one from a couple who used a surrogate. The letters show the delight that the parents take in their children and the happiness that the donor has brought into their lives.
There are also a few letters from donors themselves, explaining why they donated which may be an inspiration to anyone considering donating.
Of course this book will be of great interest to anyone who has some experience of donor conception, but I think it’s something anyone can learn from and gives a unique insight into the immense joy that a donor can bring to someone else’s life.
I spent a really interesting afternoon yesterday at the launch of a report on donor conception from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which looked at the ethical aspects of information sharing. Although the report considered a range of issues, the most contentious subject proved to be whether parents who had used donor eggs, sperm or embryos had a right to withhold information from their offspring about their genetic origins.
This has long been a thorny subject. It is clear that telling children that they were conceived using donor gametes early in their lives is to be recommended as it means that they are able to grow up feeling comfortable with this knowledge. It is also clear that finding out later in life is often very difficult – those who only discover the truth when they are in their teens or are adults are far more likely to have problems with this.
The working group had been careful to consider the needs of the family, and stated that they had not wished to put the interests of any individual above those of the family as a whole – however, their conclusions have been widely interpreted as putting the interests of parents above those of their children because they don’t conclude that donor-conceived children have an absolute right to know their origins.
It’s quite interesting when we compare this with adoption, where it would be considered completely unacceptable to lie to a child about being adopted. However, it is equally true that there are many children conceived as a result of affairs or flings who never know the truth of their genetic origins.
Perhaps what troubles those who question the conclusions of the working group is the fact that parents who opt not to tell are living with deception at the heart of their families, and that one big lie often leads to many smaller ones. Donor-conceived adults have sometimes only found out the truth during a family row, or by mistake due to some slip or unfortunate comment – and the effects of finding out in this way can be utterly devastating. Was it relevant that there was no donor-conceived adult or parent of a donor-conceived child on the working group?
We shouldn’t forget that telling can be daunting for parents. Some are worried about how to go about this, fearing that it may affect their children’s relationships with the non-genetic parent – even though experience shows that this is rarely the case and research has found that parents’ fears about telling are generally unfounded. For anyone who wants information about this, the Donor Conception Network can offer some fantastic leaflets and runs workshops too.
So, was the working group right to conclude that it is up to parents to decide what to do? Is it time to insist on more openness? Or should parents have a right not to tell? What do you think?