Four Corners - Secrets of the Fathers
Twins Anne and Helen were 20 years old when they learned they had been conceived from an anonymous man’s sperm. They spent the next 20 trying to crack the mystery of his identity. Their quest constantly ran up against a wall of secrecy that has surrounded sperm donation for decades. But gradually, they discovered clues: his education, his field of work, even a description of his teeth.
Then, from a woman who helped the twins’ search, a name and a face: "It was like I’d landed a bomb in their lap," says this supporter. Still they couldn’t be sure. Finally, DNA tests swept away all doubts. Anne and Helen were left stunned by the discovery of who their genetic father really was.
Four Corners reveals the story of the twins’ tenacious journey in search of their genetic father, and its extraordinary conclusion. Their story calls into question the confidentiality that still "protects" many sperm donors from being found years later by their offspring. It also highlights the failure of most states to regulate or even to monitor the donor conception industry.
Four Corners speaks to one man (not the twins’ father) who has donated sperm 318 times, including 270 times at one prestigious clinic. Because there are no registers of donor-conceived children outside Victoria, it’s anyone’s guess how many children he has created, who they are, or even whether some of them have met.
For many Australians – donor-conceived children and people needing help to start a family - sperm donation has been the gift of life. But for many donor-conceived children, that’s not quite enough; they also need to know the gift-giver. Now governments are under pressure from donor-conception activists to strip away the secrecy and set up a central register – accessible only to children and parents - based on Victoria’s model.
The industry slams a register as a huge invasion of privacy and argues for continued self-regulation. Where should government regulation start and stop in the emotion-charged field of donor conception? Can a balance be struck between the rights of children and donor fathers?
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