Friday, April 23, 2010
Donor eggs and donor embryos - how much should you know about the donors - and why ?
We have a very active donor egg and donor embryo IVF program. Many couples want to know more information about our donors - their physical traits; educational background; special interests; religion , and so on.
This is perfectly understandable - after all, this is an anonymous and confidential donation, and it's quite natural to be curious and learn as much as possible about the person who is making such an important contribution to your future family !
Also, I think patients' expectations have been set by US clinics and donor agencies, which provide extensive and detailed online catalogs and lists of donors. However, I sometimes wonder what the value of all this is. In my opinion, these resemble a shopping list too much for my liking ( but given the consumer culture in the USA, where everything is market-driven, this is to be expected ). The US attitude seems to be the more you know the better for you, but this is not true, because it turns prospective parents into shoppers and donor gametes into a commodity. The downside is that parents who are shopping for the "perfect donor" maybe disappointed if their child does not turn out to be perfect !
What is our approach ? We ask patients why they want to know any of this information and whether it will have any impact on their decision making process. If the answer to your question will not influence your actions, then why ask the question in the first place ? I am reminded of the famous anecdote, in which the celebrated dancer Isadora Duncan wrote to George Bernard Shaw declaring that, given the principles of eugenics, they should have a child together.
"Think of it!" she enthused. "With my body and your brains, what a wonder it would be."
"Yes," Shaw replied. "But what if it had my body and your brains?"
I agree using gametes from an anonymous donor in such a personal and private part of your life is a major leap of faith , but if you are not comfortable making it, maybe you should explore other alternatives !
We do screen our donors for their health and for infectious diseases and will match physical traits. I feel the focus should be on making sure the gametes and embryos come from healthy parents , and this is what we ensure. I feel the rest of the information is irrelevant. When you go to a blood bank, do you ask any of these questions ? How are they relevant to donor eggs and donor sperms ( which are also body fluids, after all !)
While the Nature versus Nurture argument will never be resolved, I firmly believe that your child is what you choose to make him/her ! The only important ingredient is love , and this should not depend upon the physical traits of the donor. Be grateful that someone is generous enough to be willing to make this donation - and then do your best to bring up your child as best you can !