150 Unexpected half-siblings

USA: How advances in reproductive medicine and the information society are creating new family ties for which there are no social rules as yet

How problematic the search for the "unknown father" Western culture has long been aware of the fact that the. world literature has arisen from it, for example Ulysees. Myths, as in the case of odipus, stood at the beginning of a far-reaching cultural current, psychonanalysis. And the "absent father" is still very much alive as a buzzword in the discussion about good parenting, despite the "new father", who often enough take care of the living under traditional conditions and time constraints. Another type of the "new father", the sperm donor, does not have this obligation. He is not part of the family. Or is he?? And how?

No one knows how many children are born each year in the U.S. to a sperm donor father, the New York Times reports. Treasures suggests a number between 30.000 and 60.000. The name of the father is a digit. Anonymization, however, as has often been shown in the past, does not prevent people from finding out more about the unknown father.

This does not have to be his identity, curiosity can, as examples from the newspaper report show, be limited to the scope of the sperm donations. In the USA, for example, interest groups have joined forces to search for siblings of a child conceived with donated sperm via the Internet, for example through the Donor Sibling Register website. Their results were astonishing. For example, one mother who started an online group to search for her son’s siblings found 150 half-brothers and half-sisters with the same sperm donor as their father:

It’s wild when we see them all together – they all look alike.

50 and more such half-siblings, who find each other via the Internet, communicate with each other and regularly do things together, are no exception. According to the New York Times several of these groups with the peculiar family ties.

Unlike in European countries, the paternity of sperm donors in the USA is not limited. Some sperm donors, who expected their donation to produce only a small number of children, find themselves swapped and surprised. Cited, among others, is the case of a donor who records on Excel spreadsheets information of now 70 children.

New "families" and fears

As is to be expected in the United States, the phenomenon is creating, on the one hand, new interest groups with a spectacularly modern family background and, on the other hand, very specific fears. The sexual education of her daughter, one mother is quoted as saying, includes knowing her father’s identity number in order to avoid possible incest:

"My daughter knows her donor’s number for this very reason. She’s been in school with numerous kids who were born through donors. She’s had crushes on boys who are donor children."

Whether the risk is actually statistically relevant – which does not seem very likely – is not discussed in the article. It is enough for the experts, who are complaining that the phenomenon of children conceived through sperm donation is becoming more and more widespread. Thus, as in the discussion of a film script, they explore possibilities ranging from the genetic spread of rare diseases by such multiple fathers to the above-mentioned fantasy of incest between half-siblings:

Some experts are even calling attention to the increased odds of accidental incest between half sisters and half brothers, who often live close to one another.

But even within the ranks of the Amercan Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), people are becoming more cautious about old, permissive models of the frequency of children from the same donor. The former treasuries are obsolete; one has to readjust the criteria and the handling of guidelines concerning the number of offspring, ASRM chairman Bryski is quoted as saying. Previously, he was skeptical that there could be donors with more than 100 children. Now it’s time to rethink regulations.

The fertility business, which is doing good business by increasing the demand for "popular sperm donors" regardless of the risks involved, needs to be regulated more, critics say. Things get tricky where this affects the anonymity of donors, which critics say needs to be reconsidered, and where questions arise that are raised by the aforementioned interest groups: How do you live in this unfamiliar family?

How do you make connections with so many siblings?? What does family mean to these children?