Eleni McIlroy has known all her life that she was conceived through sperm donation. But when she talks about her experience, her eyes still fill with tears.
- Some people born from sperm donation worry about not knowing their donor history
- Eleni McIlroy worries her sperm donor didn’t know her sperm was being used
- Marisa Paterson, MLA, wants a review of ACT processes, including a cap on the number of donations a person can make
She doesn’t blame her parents for the challenges she faced as a donor-conceived person — instead, the ever-growing assisted reproductive technology industry earned her ire.
His birth was born out of tragedy after his parents, who had two children, lost their youngest when he drowned in a river aged 13.
Eleni’s mother was 40 and her father had had “an irreversible vasectomy…but they really wanted to have a second child so my sister would have company in the world.”
They visited a fertility expert in Canberra and Eleni was conceived in 1989 through donated sperm.
The woman, now in her 30s, received a loving upbringing and said her parents’ honesty about her conception spared her much of the trauma that other donor-conceived people have gone through. been confronted.
But her heartbreak began when she embarked on an investigation into her biological origins, discovering that the fertility clinic her parents had hired had intentionally destroyed records.
“Some [donor conceived people] they are told they have three siblings…and they feel they can stop looking…and four years later, three more appear.”
Eleni’s donor potentially unaware his sperm was donated
After being “fired” by the fertility clinic used by her parents, she uploaded her genetic information to several different ancestry databases and was linked to a group of siblings.
But it raised more concerns than it offered closure.
Eleni contacted her donor’s family. They said they had not “seen a version of events where my donor could possibly have consented” to donating his sperm at the time.
“So how do I handle this?”
Eleni shared her story to pressure lawmakers to crack down on the assisted reproductive technology industry.
“A lot of what is missing today was also missing 30 or 40 years ago,” she said.
“I want requirements around record keeping, being able to access donor medical records…and [information] about siblings.
“We are eight at the moment”
Helena Seagrott began volunteering as Donor Conceived Australia’s senior representative with ACT after discovering two years ago that she had been conceived by a sperm donor.
The 38-year-old has since reunited with her donor who has been open to sharing information.
The man told her he was a young medical student at the time and was told to leave his sperm on a ledge in a parking lot at the Queensland Fertility Clinic in return for $10 .
“My donor did this from 1981 to 1986… once or twice a week,” Helena said.
“There are eight of us right now, but I’m counting, and expecting for the rest of my life…to get the random email: ‘You have another half-brother.'”
Helena has two children and a third is on the way, and is committed to ensuring that the assisted reproductive technology industry undergoes legislative changes to become more ethical.
“Currently there is no advice provided by governments or clinics, and what we are seeing is that people need that support.”
She called for an independent national support service staffed by trained professionals to deal with the complexities faced by donor-conceived people.
Donations could soon be capped
The ACT government was due to respond to a 2021 motion by Labor MP Marisa Patterson calling for the assisted reproductive technology industry to be reviewed.
The bill proposed to establish a regulatory framework and donor registry in the ACT.
The MP for Murrumbidgee said that currently ‘it’s all up to the industry to do the right thing, and people’s stories show that the rights and interests [of donor conceived people] weren’t always put first.”
She said she was aware of a woman who discovered her child had 103 half-siblings so far, stressing that there are no limits in Canberra to the number of donations that a person can do.
She added that most Australian jurisdictions have already legislated donor designed registries, but the ACT has lagged behind.
“I think we also need specialist counseling services for this type of situation, and parents need counseling to know what they are getting into…I think it’s quite urgent.”
As for Eleni, she pleaded with the ACT government to act so that others do not have to experience the same lack of belonging and closure that she experienced.
“You’re always looking for something that tells you where the truth is, but there’s no way to find it,” she said.
“An embryo becomes a baby who becomes a human being who has rights.”