Page 1882 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 8 June 2022

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This story is from Gail, a recipient parent who utilised donor sperm to start a family. This is Gail’s story and these are her words:

My 11-year-old daughter Lola has 103 siblings and they are just the ones we know about.

When I found myself in my early 40s and suddenly single, I decided I would use a sperm donor to start a family. I decided to go ahead with a reputable fertility clinic in Canberra. This, I thought, was the responsible way to do things.

In 2010, I underwent IVF at a Canberra fertility clinic and began the process with compulsory counselling. I recognised later that this was a completely parent-centric process—how would I cope if I didn’t get pregnant? Did I have support processes in place? There was not a single mention of the child; not one suggestion about the unique needs of donor-conceived people.

One failed cycle, one miscarriage and one successful cycle later, I birthed my beautiful daughter. The clinic advised me at the time that the U.S. sperm donor I chose could be used by a maximum of 5 families.

When Lola was a toddler, I decided to investigate whether she had any siblings. I called the fertility clinic and they were able to tell me the age and sex of a handful of siblings in Canberra, but there was no possibility of connecting with them. After conducting some research, I discovered an international website where interested families who had used the same donor could reach out after paying an annual fee.

At first glance, it appeared there was only one family that matched with Lola, however before too long, other families started appearing. Multiple siblings popped up in Canada, even more in the U.S. and several others in Australia.

I decided to do some further sleuthing in an attempt to establish just how many Australian siblings existed. After some assertive verbal exchanges with various fertility clinics in other states of Australia who had used the same U.S. sperm bank, I established a rough estimate of 23 Australian siblings. We’ve since connected with 7 of them, but what of the others? Where do they live? How old are the children? Do the children even know they’re donor-conceived? And the most disturbing question of all: when Lola becomes sexually active, how will she know she is not having sex with a sibling?

Recently my family discovered an inherited heart condition on my mother’s side. This led me to reflect on whether Lola’s biological father, the sperm donor, might discover an inherited family condition, and if so, would he inform the sperm bank? What I have since learned is cause for significant concern. It appears that U.S. sperm banks are particularly reticent about sharing any such information.

When Lola was about 5 years old, I rang the fertility clinic to inform them of my discovery that the sperm bank actually had a worldwide family limit that went above and beyond Canberra’s family limit of 5. The clinic confirmed that yes, this limit was 20 families. I told them that in fact, the limit was 40 families now, and the donor coordinator at the clinic didn’t know. She didn’t know that the

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