Saturday, November 28, 2009

Donor siblings

People conceived from donated sperm or ova are seeking out their "donor siblings" to find others to whom they are genetically related. The process is facilitated by the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR), founded by mother and son Wendy and Ryan Kramer in 2000. The DSR assists individuals to find - by mutual consent - their (or their children's) half-siblings, their own (or their child's) sperm or egg donor, or their own genetic offspring. The site, which also has a presence on Facebook and has been the subject of stories on NPR and CBS's 60 Minutes, currently has more than 25,000 registrants, and has connected 6,781 people. Ryan Kramer has 6 half-sisters, 2 of whom he and his mother have met. The average number of related donor siblings who've found each other on the registry is 5. But some have found 20, 50 or even, in one case, 120 donor siblings. Six children conceived from sperm donated by "48QAH" have linked up with each other and with their once-anonymous father, a handsome pediatrician who donated some 200 times at $50 a pop to help defray the cost of medical school. The DSR is just one of an International Network of Donor Conception Organizations formed in 2008. The laws - including Britain's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act - are evolving to facilitate the match-ups. "People are curious about where they belong and identifying your siblings is just as much a part of belonging as knowing who your genetic parents are," says Laura Witjens, chairwoman of the U.K.'s National Gamete Donation Trust. Everyone agrees that it's a new kind of family, but some are concerned about the use of one man's sperm to father so many children. Policy guidelines suggest that this should not be the case, but those recommendations are not strictly enforced in the United States.

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