New research highlights concerns over children born through donor insemination

Two studies in Human Reproduction today* (Thursday 31 August) highlight concerns surrounding children conceived through donor insemination (DI) and raise issues for countries considering legislation on a child's 'right to know'.

A Swedish survey found that at the time of questioning only half of parents were complying with their country's laws by telling or intending to tell their child about its biological origins, yet many who had not told had spoken freely to others, putting their child at risk of hearing from other sources.

British researchers found from a smaller in-depth study of 16 adults conceived by DI that they faced problems of personal identity, feelings of abandonment, deceit and mistrust within the family and frustration in being thwarted in their search for their biological father.

The Swedish study
In 1985 Swedish law gave a child born by DI the right 'when sufficiently mature' to be told the donor's identity. Until then medical files on donors were routinely destroyed and parents encouraged not to tell the child or anyone else. The change in the law arose from findings on the welfare of adopted children and their wishes to know their biological roots.

A total of 148 couples who had conceived through DI via the Umeå or Karolinska Hospitals between the time the new law was introduced and 1997 answered questionnaires anonymously.

Of these, nearly 90% (132 couples) said they had not told their children. Of 105 couples who commented on their answer, 61 said they intended to tell their children later, 16 had made no decision and 28 said they did not intend to say anything.

Nearly 60% of the 132 couples had told someone else and half of those had told many people. Parents who had told their children were satisfied with their decision and said they had seen no negative effects to date.

One of the research leaders, Dr Claes Gottlieb of the Sophiahemmet and Karolinksa Hospitals in Stockholm, said: "Attitudes towards

Contact: Margaret Willson
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology

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