Magazine article Science & Spirit

Who's Your Daddy?

Magazine article Science & Spirit

Who's Your Daddy?

Article excerpt

as the number of databases holding samples of human DNA continues to increase, the recent and well-publicized case of a teenage boy finding his sperm-donor father through a database geared at helping genealogists has raised new questions about the rights of sperm donors and their children.

The boy sent a cheek cell sample and 296 dollars to the Houston-based Family Tree DNA last year and, with a little bit of good fortune, managed to locate his biological father. Almost immediately after the story was made public, concerns about the privacy of egg and sperm donors--not to mention the privacy of other citizens--began to intensify.

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George J. Annas, Edward R. Utley Professor and chair of the department of Health Law, Bioethics & Human Rights at Boston University School of Public Health, doesn't believe that the privacy rights of sperm donors supercede those of their offspring. "The child has a stronger interest to know its genetic source than the father has for the child not to know," he said.

Thomas H. Murray, president of the Hastings Center, an independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit bioethics research institute, noted that being able to locate a biological parent also might be the key to better understanding inherited health risks and medical problems down the road. "The best genetic predictor is family history," he said.

There is currently legal pressure for adopted children in the United States to be allowed to discover the identities of their biological parents, and it is likely that similar pressures will arise where sperm and egg donors are concerned. In the 1980s, Sweden established a national donor registry that allows children to find information about their sperm-donor fathers. According to Annas, the registry caused the number of donors to drop for about a year before it began to climb back up to previous levels. …

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