Sunday, July 31, 2011

Secrets of the Father Become the Mysteries of the Child

Farrah Tomazin, Peter Munro
July 31, 2011
Narelle Grech wants to find her Biological father. Pic By Craig Sillitoe CSZ/The Sunday Age28/7/2011

Narelle Grech, 28, was conceived via a sperm donor; recently diagnosed with bowel cancer, she is desperate to find her biological father. Photo: Craig Sillitoe

Should the children of sperm donors have the right to know their fathers?

THE journey to find out where she came from started more than a decade ago for Melbourne social worker Narelle Grech.

At the age of 15, Ms Grech's parents told her that she had been conceived through a sperm donor - news she has been trying to deal with ever since.

''Since I found out, I've been really curious to know who this person is, and then as I got older it became a whole lot bigger than that. It became about searching for my whole paternal family and those missing pieces that make up a lot of who I am,'' she said.

Who's Your Daddy?

Who's Your Daddy?

Ms Grech, now 28, became even more determined to find her donor a few months ago, when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer and needed to learn more about her genetic and medical history. But despite multiple attempts get information through the doctor who helped her parents conceive her, she's had no luck.

Across town, Paul (who did not want his surname used), also wonders about his family tree - but from a different perspective. A long-time blood donor, Paul, 59, decided to donate sperm in his mid-20s after separating from his first wife. Each Father's Day, he wonders what became of the four children he helped conceive through donations in 1978.

Now remarried with two adult children, he has registered his details with the Victorian voluntary register of donors and donor-conceived children, but has received no replies.

''When I donated, it had to be completely anonymous - I had to sign a document saying I wouldn't try to find the kids,'' he said. ''But I have often found myself wandering around looking at kids of about the right age, wondering who they are, how they are going, whether they need a hand.''

The question of whether donor-conceived children should have the right to access their donor's information (or vice versa) has always been a vexed issue; a balancing act between the right to privacy versus the right to know.

State Parliament has now re-opened the debate, as part of a broad-ranging inquiry by the law reform committee. The committee chairman, Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown, said the inquiry would consider the legal and practical issues that arose if all donor-conceived Victorians were given access to information about their donors, and their donor-conceived siblings.

At present, the law varies depending on when the donation was made, resulting in a ''three tiered'' system. Victorians conceived using sperm donated after January 1, 1998, have unconditional access to information about their donors. Those conceived using sperm donated between July 1, 1988, and December 31, 1997, can access information about their donors if their donor consents. But those conceived before 1988 don't have the right to access, because donors have been granted anonymity.

For people like Ms Grech, the laws are frustrating and heartbreaking. For many donors, though, this is how it should be. Some were university students who made a donation for money; others did so for altruistic reasons and now have their own families. It is often argued that providing donor information could unfairly complicate their lives or risk making them financially liable.

Law Institute of Victoria president Caroline Counsel said the law should not allow the release of the personal details of either party without their consent. ''You cannot say after the event, 'We are going to superimpose a new regime of disclosure.' I think that is an abuse of an altruistic act,'' she said.

But film director Roger Clarke, who donated his sperm in the early 1980s, takes a different view.

Mr Clarke gave consent for his information to be passed on to his offspring. A few years ago he met Riley Denham, the 22-year-old man he helped create. The pair now consider each other as ''mates''.

''It was his lifelong ambition to meet me, so on his 18th birthday his mum and dad gave him the file,'' Mr Clarke said.

Mr Clarke said he understood most donors would want to remain anonymous, but thinks there could be a ''halfway point'', where non-identifying information, such as medical information, is accessible.

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ferg said...

this previous blog post of yours

I'm Evelyn (Disenfranchised Grief) Robinson's adopted son, Stephen Ferguson (Ferg). I've co-presented with her a few times over the years. I'm also a biological father/sperm donor (excuse the term, I know you don't like it).
Anyway, I live in the NT, teaching, but will be back down in Melbourne for a weekend to get tattooed again in about 4 weeks.

Get in touch if you fancy meeting for a coffee/beer/chat or even if you don't want to meet, then just get in touch: ferg70[at]gmail[dot]com

Here's some photos from FB so you have a face for the message:

Ferg McFerguson


Tanya said...

Hi Rel, this is Tanya. My mum just saw your article in the women's weekly and mentioned it off-handedly, and your age, and I ask straight away if it was you.
I would love to get back in contact with you if you would like to. My email is tanyah@ gmail dot com. If not I will just send you my love!

Madeleine said...

Hi Narelle, it's Madeleine from the SBS doco from years ago. I just read an article in the paper and heard that you are sick. I'm so incredibly sorry to hear the news, I was always hoping somehow that your donor would eventually see something in the news or media and would contact you.

I hope this arrives, I tried to send it on the old email I had, but it bounced. I went searching for your old blog, and found this one. That's so great that you did become a social worker. I'm so, well, I just can't believe the news really. I can't believe (although I do of course) that you have late stage bowel cancer and that it is genetically related. It just underscores in terrible clarity everything you told us at the time we filmed.

I'd really like to help if there is something I could help with.

Hugs, take care, would love to talk if you feel like it,

Madeleine Hetherton l M: +61 408 622 203 l P: +61 2 8021 0313 I skype: madeleinehetherton

Cameron VSJ said...


I have a quick question about your blog, would you mind emailing me when you get a chance?




roth phallyka said...

a weekend to get tattooed again in about 4 weeks.