Test-tube babies—they do grow up

How can donor-conceived adults inform our understanding of assisted human reproductive technologies in Canada?

February 28, 2007 | by Kate Fraher , Researcher, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada
PDF:  Test-tube babies—they do grow up


  1. Test-tube babies’ are babies conceived through the process of in-vitro fertilization where sperm and an egg are combined outside of the woman’s body and transferred to the uterus.
  2. Most fertility experts today, encourage parents who use donor insemination to tell their children the truth about their origins.  In the past, this was sometimes discouraged as it was thought that disclosure would create a relational rift between the non-biological parent and child or because they feared that the known father would be stigmatized for his infertility.  In these cases, children grew up thinking that both parents were their biological kin, even if this was not the case.
  3. Olivia Pratten, the Institute of Marriage and Family Inaugural Family Policy Conference, September 26, 2006. Her presentation can be retrieved online at: http://www.imfcanada.org/Default.aspx?go=article&aid=118&tid=8
  4. R. Pierson, personal communication, February 26, 2007.
  5. Ibid.
  6. In some cases, donor offspring develop medical conditions that are genetically transmitted, but neither they nor their parents are able to obtain medical information from donors.  This is because fertility clinics are not obligated to keep track of donors, or their offspring.  They are also not obligated to provide this information to children and families.  Neither are clinics obligated to update donor health records to record diseases that donors may succumb to after they make their donation.
  7. Donor-conceived adults who know their donor’s number can now use websites to track down their donor parents and/or donor siblings.  This Valentine’s Day, a donor known as “Donor 150” made contact with his daughters after they were featured in a NYT article for finding each other through the website donorsiblingregistry.com.  Jeffrey Harrison has since met three of his daughters and discovered offspring in four other states, making him the biological father of at least 7 young adults.  To read this story in the New York Times, click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/14/us/14donor.html?ex=1329109200&en=36011329bec29b1e&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss  Other websites such as Tangled Webs and  UK DonorLink  offer donor offspring a chance to share their common experience or find other half-siblings with the same donor.
  8. Scheib, J.E., Riordan, M., & Rubin, S. (2005). Adolescents with open-identity sperm donors: reports from 12-17 year olds. Human Reproduction, 20(1), 248. Retrieved from http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/20/1/239?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&minscore=5000&resourcetype=HWCIT
  9. D. Allen, personal communication, February 26, 2007.
  10. In her report The Revolution in Parenthood: The Emerging  Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children’s Needs, Marquardt says that as donor-conceived children grow up, “they look in the mirror and see features and expression they don’t share with the parents who are raising them…they start asking questions.”  This report, co-published by the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada can be retrieved from http://www.imfcanada.org/article_files/Revolution%20in%20Parenthood.pdf
  11. Olivia Pratten, the Institute of Marriage and Family Inaugural Family Policy Conference, September 26, 2006