Fertility Clinics Could Cause an Incest Epidemic in America

Lack of regulation on sperm donation leads to one man fathering 150 children

By , Columnist

There are some stories that give me hope for humanity, and some that make me sure that we really are all going to die in a fiery apocalypse. This is the latter.

In a recent feature published in the New York Times, we meet Cynthia Daily and her partner, who used donor sperm to conceive a son. Through a web-based sibling registry, Cynthia was able to track how many half-siblings her son shares through the same donor sperm. There are currently 150 children in Cynthia's son's group.

In 2000, Wendy Kramer founded the Donor Sibling Registry to helped connect these "donor families." Many children enjoy meeting and knowing their biological half-siblings, and many parents feel a sense of connection through communicating with other parents in their "donor group."

The problem, of course, lies in just how many children are being conceived with the same sperm. Parents and experts alike worry, and rightfully so, about the potential ramficiations of having so many children fathered by the same donors. Complications include the possibility of rare diseases spreading more quickly and accidental incest as half-siblings concentrated in the same geographical area grow up.

Not to mention the potential ramifications as 150 half-siblings produce a new generation. Even if that many people reproduced with someone completed unrelated to them, each and every one of their children would be cousins - that's hundreds, if not over a thousand, of potential first cousins concentrated in one geographical area, never knowing the close genetic relationship they share. The odds of some first cousins meeting, marrying and reproducing are inevitable, in that case. In a word, this could be disastrous.

Apparently the United States is far behind on creating laws that limit the number of children produced from one donor. Countries including Britain, France and Sweden already have such limitations, unsurprisingly. The only guideline that currently exists in America is a "25 births per population of 800,000" recommendation, given by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Mothers who successfully give birth to children conceived via sperm donors are asked, not legally required, to report the birth to their sperm bank. Only 20-40% of mothers are said to do so. Additionally, sperm donors are usually unaware that they are biological fathers to more than a few children. When one donor asked how many children he might theoretically produce, he was told that "nobody knows for sure," but that "five" was a good estimate.

Wendy Kramer, founder of the Donor Sibling Registry

I'm sure I speak for many Americans when I say that I am horrified by the lack of legal regulation on the reproductive industry in America, and equally concerned over the evident blasé attitude among many "professionals" in the industry.

I'm no scientist, geneticist, biologist, or doctor, but I'd say it doesn't take a genius, or even a high-school educated person, to realize that this is problematic. I'm left to wonder why, when sperm donation first became standard practice, someone didn't stand up and say, "Hold on a second!" It leaves me a little nauseous - it seems that some people were so eager to make a buck (or millions), that ethics and common sense fell by the wayside (or were purposefully ignored). Once again, a profit now trumps potential problems for humanity later.

What do you think about the lack of legal regulation on the reproductive industry? Are you left shaking your head at the state of mankind, or am I alone in my outrage?

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Rachel East is a freelance writer specializing in relationships and relationship advice. In addition to her regular column on TMR, Rachel contributes relationship content to the Levo League, formerly known as Pretty Young Professional, a website for young, professional and ambitious women. Her writing…

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