What Is the Donor Sibling Registry?

Britt Archer

The Donor Sibling Registry is a non-profit organization based in the United States that brings together half-siblings who were conceived with the aid of donated eggs, sperm or embryos. The organization brings together people who have a desire to meet others who share a genetic link with them. The group, established in 2000, also acts as an advocate for children who were conceived via donation and their families, promoting open communication when it is desired by all involved parties, and helping them to form bonds with half-siblings they previously did not know they had.

A donor sibling registry must ensure that the rights of all parties are respected.
A donor sibling registry must ensure that the rights of all parties are respected.

As the number of children who are conceived by unconventional means grows, more questions are sprouting in their minds about their origins, their health histories and even their identities. The founder of the Donor Sibling Registry has said that most of the sperm donors, if they choose to come forward and meet the children their sperm donation helped create, are involved in professional occupations, perhaps stemming from the fact that many sperm donors have been recruited at universities and colleges. Others, however, are atypical, with one donor, for example, living in a trailer. He and his offspring have gained some notoriety thanks to a film about the Donor Sibling Registry and the individual meetings he has had with the children, who are now in their early 20s.

Some of the children who begin by searching for their donor through the Donor Sibling Registry end up forming strong relationships with the siblings they discover. Two pairs of twins, for example, one in California and one in Georgia, have grown close and communicate frequently. Some children discover the existence of dozens of half-brothers and half-sisters in their search with the Donor Sibling Registry, and they also note their similarities, physically as well as psychologically.

On the down side, experts are raising troubling questions about the possibility of accidental incest occurring between donor children who are not aware they have the same father. Experts also raise concerns about the possibility of spreading genetic diseases in a wider gene pool through donors who sometimes contributed their sperm dozens of times. Some experts are pushing for a limit on the number of offspring that one donor’s sperm can be used to conceive. In one case alone, one donor’s sperm has helped to conceive 150 children. Sweden, France, and Great Britain already have imposed limits, but no legal limits exist in the United States, although there are guidelines.

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