12 January 2008

IVF & Incest

A story from the Sydney Morning Herald caught my eye, surprising because after my morning swim my eyes are red and watering (that's because men don't cry their eyes just water), oh yeah, the story!

After reading the title "Unwitting incest" and the politically incorrect and morally questionable jokes of my youth such as incest being a game the whole family can play, the story really is a tragedy. It is too bad that I am not a statistician or some kind of mathematical genius in order to work out what the odds are that twins separated at birth and raised by different families would run into each other, fall in love, and get married! I would guess that this is remote.

It seems this remote case is being used to ensure that the names of biological parents in in-vitro fertilization (IVF) programs are recorded on birth certificates. One of the features of IVF has always been that the donors could be anonymous if that was what was wanted. The other issue worth considering is that many people donate because their identity is not revealed. If identities are to be revealed potential donors are going to think long and hard before donating their genetic material. This is particularly the case now where biological parents of children are being sued for material and financial support for children that they never intended supporting.

It would be possible to have a complete medical history of donors without ever having to release their names. Yet, this is lost in the emotion. The debate is no doubt going to be heated but is the remote possibility that tragedies like this will unfold in the future sufficient to see a shift in public policy from protecting the identity of the donors to making it compulsory for all donors to be named?

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