Prof Roy homburg
Since I was a medical student in the fabulous sixties (1960’s that is!), many things have changed radically. We are now going through a phase of political correctness where all must be transparent but also an age of incredible technological advances. In reproductive medicine, these two developments do not always meet eye to eye and often ethical considerations have been playing catch-up with the technology. One example is the law enabling children produced as a result of donated sperm or donated eggs to have the right to know the identity of the donor (their biological parent) when they reach the age of 18. All very correct despite the fact that it induced a drastic fall in the number of donors who were previously anonymous and now find that they may have a youth knocking on their door, announcing his or her arrival by “hello Mum or Dad” as the case may be. Without even going into further legalities of such an event, the reticence of donors to be revealed is understandable.
Many parents whose child was conceived from donor sperm or eggs have a moral dilemma as to whether to tell their child the way they were conceived. The psychologists and counsellors tell us that the ideal age to do this is between 4 and 6 years old and to explain it by “Mummy’s tummy is broken” or “Daddy’s tadpoles can’t swim”. Is political correctness and the need for transparency overruling the good of the child and plain common sense? If only the parents are in on their “secret” the chances of the child ever finding out are less than minimal. Would a 5-year-old child be completely confused by the revelation and would he not worry about his parents’ health and a feeling that he may be left on his own? Is ‘the need to know’ something for ‘spooks’ only or for very young children as well? Put yourself in the place of this child. What would you want?