In another wonderful piece of writing, Amy Harmon of The New York Times continues her exploration of the world of test-tube babies. This time, she looks at sperm donors and their offspring. People are searching for each other from both ends of this strange relationship, often with no help at all form the clinics that broker the sperm donations.

It may seem curious that as impersonal an act as donating sperm could lead to a lifetime of curiosity about the children that resulted. But if it does, perhaps the problem lies with us, and our ready acceptance of the mechanical assumptions of the test-tube baby industry that the genetic material of a woman or a man can simply be substituted for that of another. If you thought that gametes (sperm and eggs) were just biological Legos, read Amy Harmon and you will think again.

Listen to this "donor," years later: "I have this overwhelming desire to meet my genetic offspring," said John Allison, 46, a software engineer in Tucson who donated sperm for easy money as a graduate student in the mid-1980's and never had children of his own. "We'd rent a boat, we'd go fishing. I'd answer anything they had to say."

The American in vitro industry is essentially unregulated. Some other countries have rules that require or enable disclosure. It seems the pressure is growing here, partly because parents are being more candid with the children and children are seeking the same rights as adoptees (who can discover their biological parents when they are 18). Many children (or parents) have succeeded in connecting with those with whom they now have biological relationships through what seemed originally to be an entirely anonymous process. They have often to put pressure on clinics (for whom anonymity ...

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Life Matters
Nigel M. de S. Cameron is now president and CEO of the Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies. His "Life Matters" column, a commentary on bioethics issues, ran from 2005 to 2006.
Previous Life Matters Columns:
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