Human Exceptionalism

“Anonymous” Sperm Donor Fathers Hundreds

The Center for Bioethics and Culture has a good film out called Anonymous Father’s Day, which deals with the emotional impact on children of sperm donors from not knowing anything about their biological fathers.  This too is a form of reproductive commodification and the consequences in the lives of the people created are more intense than I certainly would have thought.  Of course, that isn’t the only way of being an “anonymous father,” but the film brings up issues I had not considered before seeing it.  It is well worth your while.

I bring this up because, relevant to that film, a story is out in which the owner of a UK sperm bank may have used his own sperm, biologically fathering perhaps 600 children.  From The Sun story:

A BRITISH scientist may have fathered 600 children after making donations to a fertility programme he ran with his wife. And one of his biological children has suggested the number may even be as  high as ONE THOUSAND. Bertold Wiesner – who was born in Austria – ran the Barton Clinic in London which helped more than 1,500 women conceive. Barry Stevens, a film-maker from Canada, was conceived using Wiesner’s donated  sperm and said the number could be much higher. He said last night: “He was the one that found the donors so it’s possible he didn’t tell his wife and she believed the donations were coming from a lot of different men.”

Wiesner ran the controversial clinic with his wife Mary – until he died in 1972. Research shows he regularly made donations from the early 1940s until the mid-1960s. David Gollancz, a London-based barrister also conceived at the clinic, said last night: “A conservative estimate is that he would have been making 20 donations a year. “Using standard figures of live births which result, including allowances for twins and miscarriages, I estimate that he is responsible for between 300 and 600 children,” he added.

Talk about egomania. And if the half siblings mate not knowning they are related, there are significant moral and health issues that arise.

This story, albeit from actions taken decades ago, illustrates the potential harm that one unscrupulous person can inflict on the innocent, illustrating once again the need for strong regulations and oversight over the businesses that help infertile couples become parents.

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