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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Baby Boom: What Happens When One Sperm Donor Has Dozens Of Offspring

Three mothers and their kids - from left, Dawn Warthen and her daughter Allyson Cross, Michelle Jorgenson and her daughter Cheyenne, and Jenafer Elin and her son Joshua - during a reunion in 2006. The kids are half-siblings and all have the same sperm donor: number 3066. (AP)

Three mothers and their kids - from left, Dawn Warthen and her daughter Allyson Cross, Michelle Jorgenson and her daughter Cheyenne, and Jenafer Elin and her son Joshua - during a reunion in 2006. The kids are half-siblings and all have the same sperm donor: number 3066. (AP)

The business of making babies has been in the news a lot recently. A 33 year-old lawyer from Boston discovered he has spawned more than 70 kids after donating to a sperm bank during his three years of law school.

Some of his offspring tracked him down through a website that allows children to find their biological parents. Some of those children have voiced concern that they could unknowingly have relations with their brother or sister. So how does the reproductive industry work? Who monitors it? And is anyone keeping track?

Guest:

  • Rene Almeling, Yale University assistant professor of sociology and author of “Sex Cells: The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Guest

    Old news is really exciting.  Why is that when the NY Times covers a story, every NPR show has to rehash it for the next two weeks?

  • Lloyd

    Too bad Moll Flanders didn’t have a sibling registry.

  • Charlotte in San Diego

    I was an egg donor two times. It had to be anonymous. Now I have a daughter and I will make sure she checks that any potential husbands in her future get checked to make sure they not half siblings. Freaky to think about!

  • Sue

    I am listening to your program and so far I am not hearing about the parents of donor-conceived children.  I am part of a large community of women in the Boston area known as Single Mothers by Choice.  We and lesian couples are a huge market for the sperm banks.  This is one of the most pressing issues in our community and many of my SMC friends and I are deeply concerned about the number of half-siblings our chidren have.  When I was pregnant and looked at the DSR (donor sibling registry) I saw that my future child had 4 half-siblings.  I checked back on the registry when my child was about a year and half and learned there were 20 half-siblings.  These are just the children whose parents have joined the registry and shared this information.  The real number is likely much larger.  On the one hand my “only” child may be thrilled to have so many half-siblings, on the other hand once she is out of diapers she willl be burdened for the rest of her life with deciding whom to share this information with when asked the simple question, “Do you have any brothers or sisters”?

  • Ed

    Instead of needing lots of children, we need high-quality children. Margaret Mead(1901-78)

    We have had to turn to these sperm banks in recent years as the quality of man sperm has spiralled downward. Over the past 30 yeasrs, I have  read many articles from within the US about how all the chemicals in the food supply whether in the foods or residues on it from pesticides, herbicides, etc.
    This is well known that these chemicals cause various mutations in  the male sperm.
    THe female is also effects as are most of us with all the endocrine disruptors in the food chain.
    A little poison here and there and it adds up. 
    A study done back in the late 70′s in the tomato and vegetable fields around the Immokalee, Fla. region amongst the Hispanic workers of the declining sperm counts and inability to bear children.

    Those workers back during the Manhattan Project of the late 30′s and early 40′s which handled radioactive materials on a regular basis became sterile.

    Do not alcohol, aluminum, aspartame, caffeine, canola, chlorine, fluoride, cow’s milk, malathion, mercury, nitrites, Nutrasweet, Neotame, tobacco, sucralose, sugar and vaccinations constitute biological and chemical warfare against us.

    • Sam, Buffalo, NY

      How about a quality of men?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001502395805 Chris Yonts

      We need higher-quality women who seek quality relationships instead of shortcuts.

  • Guest

    I thought halfsies were okay?

  • Janice

    I applaud you for discussing this topic today, raising people’s awareness about the shocking results of a totally unregulated system here in the USA.  I can appreciate your sociologist’s mentioning that this country has a “dark history” looking back at eugenics laws, so that generally people are reluctant to push for regulation of human reproduction. However, with human reproductive technology having developed to the point where it now is, we need some regulation here! The fertility industry is making millions from couples who are happy to
    pay vast fees in order to be helped to have a baby. At that level no-one
    seems to worry about the fact that these babies grow up! The shock and confusion that is, and will be, experienced by the offspring of donated gametes as they grow up having to deal with the burdonsome fact that they have literally hundreds of half siblings must be seriously addressed.

    In the UK, where I happen to have been conceived via anonymous sperm donation back in 1947 when the procedure was in its infancy, they have moved comfortably into a system that works well. They have declared that it is a human right to know one’s biological heritage; only donors who agree to be identified are accepted by sperm banks—they have outlawed the use of anonymous donors. There, the law also states that a donor can only donate to a maximum of 10 families.
    It seems to me that these kinds of guidelines can, and should be adopted here in the US.

  • Heaviest Cat

    Given the Earth’s ongoing ecological crisis, how about a story on contraception and population control/

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001502395805 Chris Yonts

      Digression!

  • BeatDown

    Holy Sh_t man!  Run, before you’re discovered by any of them!!

  • Thachairman08

    I find this more disturbing than anything…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001502395805 Chris Yonts

    Don’t people have blood tests when they get married?

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