Children of sperm donors fight to know fathers
Thousands of children conceived using donated sperm are watching a B.C. court case that could give them rights they believe they have been unfairly denied.
Shelley Deacon had always been curious about the identity of her father.
"I found out at about 10 years old I was from sperm donation and from that instant on, it was like, well, who is he? When do I get to meet this guy?" she said.
But as things stand, Deacon and an estimated 50,000 Canadians in the same situation are unable to learn the identities of their biological fathers because of a contract signed at the time of conception that keeps sperm donors completely anonymous.
"I was given information when I was about 15 or 16, from the doctor: height, eye colour, hair colour, weight, blood type," she said.
After a bit of digging, Deacon discovered that the donor was a medical student at the University of British Columbia. She also discovered the year he graduated, but says all students in his class have denied being her father.
"Some of them said, ‘I admire you in your pursuit,' but none of them said yes."
Deacon is closely watching the case of Olivia Pratten, who is suing for children of sperm donors to have the same rights as adopted children: the right to learn sperm donors' medical histories and contact biological parents.
"It's about medical history, and it's also about identity. It's about social history; it's about knowing where you came from," Pratten has said.
The case worries some medical experts, who have already watched Canadian laws against payment reduce the number of sperm donations.
"In Britain, when they stopped allowing anonymous donation, the donation rate dropped dramatically," said Anita Ho, a UBC ethicist.
"In Canada, in 2004...when payment was no longer possible, there were already a lot of men who decided not to donate sperm, and so if we're also taking away the anonymity, probably many men would also not want to do that."
But Deacon believes that an end to sperm donor anonymity won't necessarily spell the end of sperm donation.
"The donors still keep coming, but this time they're coming for the right reasons. They're coming because they want to create a life," she said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward