Jigsaw Queensland - acknowledges that there are overlaps between adoption and donor-conception practices and experiences.
Information for those affected by donor conception in Queensland.
What is donor conception?
Donor-conception refers to the use of donated gametes (sperm, eggs and embryo’s) for the purpose of having a child. ‘Donor conceived people’ is the title for people who are born as a result of sperm, egg or embryo donation. ‘Donors’ are those who donate this material and ‘parents’ refer to the legal parents of a donor conceived person. In the majority of cases the child will be genetically related to one of their legal parents (sperm and egg donation), although in the use of donated embryos the child will have no genetic connection to either parent. The mother will often physically carry and give birth to the child. However this is not the case when there is a surrogacy arrangement.
What does donor conception have to do with adoption?
In recent times, donor-conceived adults have been advocating for the right to their genetic identity. This need mirrors that expressed by individuals affected by adoption who advocated for adoption records to be opened which was legislated in Queensland for the first time in the early 1990’s. Therefore, secrecy in relation to donor conception practices is similar to that inherent in the past closed adoption era. In Australia, it was common for anonymous donors to be used and in many cases this was the preferred practice. Current estimates suggest that there are at least 60,000 donor conceived people living in Australia, with many being unaware of the truth of their conception. The practice of utilising anonymous gamete donors was addressed in the 2005 NHMRC guidelines which stipulate that anonymous gametes should no longer be used anywhere in Australia.
Regardless of the circumstances of their conception, like adopted people, donor conceived people have reported experiencing difficulties in relation to:
Feeling that they ‘don’t fully belong’ within the family in which they were raised.
Feeling a sense of loss in relation to disconnection from biological family.
Feeling a sense of loss that they are not genetically related to one or more of their legal parents and extended family members.
The desire to know about and connect with genetic siblings (of which donor conceived people can have a large number).
Feeling an expectation that they should be grateful to the parents who ‘went to so much effort to have you’ which can lead to feelings of guilt for wanting to know about one’s genetic and medical history.
There are also some key differences between the lived experience of those affected by donor conception and those with a lived experience of adoption. For example:
Donor conceived people will only have one birth certificate. Their legal parents’ names will appear on this birth certificate, which can make it even more difficult to find out about their genetic parent/origins.
Whilst adoption records have routinely been managed by the Queensland Government, records pertaining to donor conception are maintained by clinics, some of which may have closed or changed name since the conception and birth of the donor conceived person.
Despite the introduction of the NHMRC guidelines in 2005, there is currently no legislation in Queensland (or the Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory or Tasmania) that specifically addresses donor conception practices or information release in relation to these practices. The NHMRC guidelines are complicated in that they are not legally enforced, but clinics are required to adhere to them. Therefore, individuals affected by donor conception must contact the clinic directly if they wish to seek information about their origins or another party. Upon contacting clinics, individuals have reported varying experiences, including being denied information.
Some donor conceived people may experience sadness or anger based on their perception that they were ‘deliberately created to fulfil the needs of others’, as donor conception practices are still a medically sanctioned way to overcome infertility.
Parents of donor conceived children have expressed a need for support regarding ‘telling’ their children about their donor conceived status and supporting their children with any complexities that arise. However, currently no government funded support exists in Queensland.
If individuals are seeking support in regards to this issue, they are encouraged to contact Jigsaw Queensland who can provide referrals to private practitioners with relevant knowledge and/or support groups. Jigsaw Queensland can also record your details so that if a specialist support service is established in future, we will be able to reach out to you and inform you of the help that is available.
If you would like to be involved in advocating for government funded support and/or legislation, please contact and provide your details to Jigsaw Queensland.
Helpful information and resources:
National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/reports/use-assisted-reproductive-technology.pdf
Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) provides government funded support to those who reside in Victoria or were affected by donor conception practices that took place in that state. They also provide a wealth of information through information sheets and videos:
Jigsaw WA provide information and support to those residing in Western Australia or who are affected by Donor Conception practices that occurred in that state:
Some individuals affected by donor conception choose to utilise genealogical DNA testing to find out more about their origins and genetic relatives. Jigsaw Queensland has an information sheet which may be useful: https://431c0a87-35bb-499e-bc58-8696a121c86c.filesusr.com/ugd/07d682_ece3b50624524e8cbd439002366087f2.pdf
‘We are Donor Conceived’ which conducts a survey each year of donor conceived people all over the world: