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Reassuring findings from first study on sperm donor identification

A study published in Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal Human Reproduction[1] (Thursday 11 November), should help allay fears that removing anonymity from sperm donors might lead to problems for the children or for their biological fathers.

In the world's first study to examine the feelings and experiences of adolescents who had been conceived through 'open-identity' sperm donors, US researchers found that all but one of the 29 young people involved in the study had a neutral or positive response to their origins. More than 4 out of 5 said they were likely to ask for the donor's identity and try to contact him, but few saw him as being an important person in their lives and not one reported wanting any money from him.

The top question the young people wanted answered was 'what's he like?' Of the 83% who wanted to know their donor's identity and to contact him, the motive for the majority was curiosity about him and, for many, the chance to see if it would help them to learn more about themselves.

Lead researcher Dr Joanna Scheib of the University of California, Davis and The Sperm Bank of California, said: "While it appeared that the children were very curious and eager to learn more about their donor, they were also concerned about respecting his privacy and not intruding on his life. This finding indicates that the stereotypical concern of offspring showing up on the donor's doorstep is inaccurate and does not reflect the intentions of the actual youths going through the identity-release process."

Dr Scheib said that the practice of open-identity sperm donation was still in its infancy and it would be appropriate to replicate the study with a bigger sample. The research team now plans a study focused on the experiences of young adults and donors who actually meet each other.

"What this study has done is to indicate that when youth are told of their conception origins early and have the option to learn more about
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10-Nov-2004


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