What the Donor Sibling Registry?

Christina Whyte

A donor sibling registry allows people who were conceived using donor sperm or eggs to find and possibly contact people who were conceived using sperm or eggs from the same donor. Donor identification and contact between donor siblings and the donors themselves can be fairly controversial and emotional. Mutual consent, as well as legal protection and regulation, is important. A donor sibling registry can help a lot of people connect with family, but must ensure that the rights of all people associated with donor conception are protected.

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.

Many people use a donor sibling registry because they want to find out more about themselves and their biological families. Frequently, only basic information about the donor will be available at the time of conception, but children may wish to know much more about their family history. A donor sibling registry can also help families get in contact with other families like theirs, which can be an important source of social support.

While it is important to support the needs of donor conceived people who want to find their genetic relatives, it is also important to protect the rights of the donors and of donor conceived people who do not want to find their relatives. Some people do not care about genetics, and do not consider donors or donor siblings to be family. Some donors may have made donations at a young age, and the thought that they could have many genetic children can be unsettling. Anonymity is important to many.

Some donor registries provide anonymity, but assign each donor a number which can be used by siblings to find each other. Donors can also anonymously post information about ancestry and genetic history, which is particularly important if a donor develops symptoms of a genetic condition after having made his or her donation. This information can be critically important for donor children, who can then be screened for the condition to see if they have inherited it.

An ethical donor sibling registry must address the issue of consent for all parties involved. Some children of donors have won the right to information about genetic parents even against the donor's wishes, such as if the child has inherited a serious disorder. Even when a donor has released information voluntarily, he or she may not be open to meeting his or her genetic offspring, and even if a family is seeking information, they may not be open to meeting the donor or donor siblings. This may be difficult to deal with for people who really want to meet half-siblings using a donor sibling registry.

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