Once again, the voices of people and families conceived
as a result of gamete donation in Israel are going unheeded.
A revision of health policy pertaining to matters of
birth and fertility is currently underway in Israel, and assisted reproduction
technologies (ART) are high on the agenda. Nonetheless it appears that those
most affected by this have not (yet) been invited to testify.
In fact the Ministry of Health (MOH) Committee, known as
the 'Mor Yosef Committee', published its recommendations in May last year. Now that a new government is
being formed following the January 2013 elections, it is only a matter of time
before the new Knesset members are asked to approve these recommendations.
One would think that the MOH and/or Knesset Committee
members would wish to hear from donor offspring who are old enough to relate how
they experience their insular situation. This has been done in other countries
and jurisdictions for similar policy decisions which ultimately affect the
offspring and their families most.
However in Israel, donor-conceived people are the only
group not allowed to trace their ancestral origins and know their biological
father and mother and half-siblings. Thus, they are not in a position to choose
to establish the kind of family relations that in other jurisdictions are
generally recognised by law.
This restriction of liberty has profound implications for
the offspring's sense of self-familiarity (1), which is intimately
connected with their sense of identity. In addition to the 'black hole'
surrounding the biological parent's identity and personhood, donor offspring
are deprived of having a relationship with half-siblings who may also wish to
Moreover, offspring are denied access to valid medical
information concerning their donor and his or her family history, even in an
anonymised format. These data are simply not collected, even though this oversight
may result in misdiagnosis, delayed treatment, or worse.
Added to that, offspring who do not know their donor code
or lack access to identifying information are unable to avoid accidental
incestuous relations with donor siblings. In a tiny country with poorly
enforced restrictions as to the number of families a donor may donate to, this
I would like to propose that while the pros and cons of
abolishing donor anonymity in Israel are tentatively debated, a process which
clearly will not be exhausted overnight given current efforts to maintain the
status quo (2), the offspring be allowed to know each other
should they so desire.
For many, this is of equal import to learning of or
contacting their donor (3). This holds true for offspring from
heterosexual families; single mother families; and lesbian couple families.
Offspring contact could be easily achieved without
revealing the donor's identity, via the unconditional provision of non-identifying
donor codes to recipients, donors and offspring, as is routinely done in the
United States. What's more, this could and should be done retroactively. There
is no need to create two classes of offspring - those who can search for their
siblings on the basis of a donor code, and those who cannot.
Interested parties could then log onto the Donor Sibling
Registry (DSR) and/or other search engines, and hopefully
find each other. A person conceived as a result of gamete donation could then find
his or her half-siblings provided they too posted on the DSR, indicating their
mutual interest in this endeavour.
In the words of a donor conceived person: 'I am quite
secure about who I am and I do not feel I need to meet my donor but I do wonder
about siblings. I think no matter how secure one's home life is there is still
a need to better understand who you are and who you might be related to'. (4)
Imagine the joy of a single child in finding half-siblings,
that of a boy with male siblings in finding a sister, or vice versa. It's hard
to over-emphasise the psychological importance of being able to expand one's
family, whether or not one chooses to exercise this freedom.
A word of caution, though - there is bound to be a
gap between reality and desire, especially where such long-thwarted hopes are
involved. People who choose to become involved in such a journey might wish to
consider some form of preparatory counselling or psychotherapy to better anticipate
and buffer the repercussions of finding - or failing to find - a new donor
relation or, for them, family member.