Is it ethical to use donor sperm or eggs? What do genetics matter anyway?

If you’ve ever had to consider this question, you’ve probably been through a difficult time already. It’s not something most us want to even think about. As a woman, you hope that you will have met a partner while there’s plenty of time left. As a couple, you hope that conceiving will just happen naturally and easily. As a gay couple, donor sperm or surrogacy are the only way to have a child that is biologically related to you.

Using donor sex cells can be a way to patch up the wound; the next best option. You get to have that precious longed-for baby, half made up of your or your partner’s genetic matter; half connected to you, perhaps even nurtured and grown by your body. But what about the other half?

Of course, not knowing one of your parents is not a problem per se. Many people grow up completely at ease with the circumstances of their conception. And probably one could come to terms with all kinds of ‘stories’ – being the outcome of sexual assault, carelessness or a casual fling. Though challenging, as long as you are loved and provided for, it is possible to be at peace; to let go of negative feelings and see that these things are part of life, bigger than you and I.

But it’s one thing if it just happens and you appear into the world without knowing one of your parents. How would it feel to know that it was chosen to be this way? How would it feel to know that in order to bring you into existence, your parent(s) purchased the other half of your genetic makeup from someone willing to sell it, thereby denying you any ‘organic’ connection with that other half?

Genetics can seem pretty abstract but their real-world equivalent is our physical resemblance to others and a knowledge/sense of fixity about our origins. To some degree, ignorance is bliss because if you never know that your father is not your biological father, then you could be perfectly secure in the belief that he is. But the majority of us know the truth and though it is so easily taken for granted, it also isn’t utterly without meaning.

Most of us can look at our legs, our eyes, hands or hair and we know that it came from the people before us and is shared with others around us. And we know the stories of those people before us and it makes us feel that we belong. How strange it must be to know that this person, along with their entire heritage and their ancestors, is a stranger to you by the choice of your other biological parent. Yes, you were wanted, that is for sure. But there is no story connecting your two halves other than that desire. Is that desire on its own enough to compensate for that which has been lost?

A child born using donor sex cells may live a completely happy life and may never feel uncertain about their identity. But there is a risk that parents who use donor eggs/sperm deprive that child of something because they put their own needs first.

Bringing someone into this world is already a tremendous responsibility. Doing so without any mutual, organic connection or story between two people, two producers of sex cells, for me personally, would be a responsibility too great to bear.