Woman learns she might have 700 siblings due to sperm donor’s deception

IVF, in vitro fertilization, embryo, sperm donor, sperm donors, Ocasio-Cortez, donor

Katherine Dawson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that she’s always known she was conceived using donor sperm. But when she found out how many siblings she might have, she was horrified.

Dawson said that she always thought it was “cool” to know she was conceived through in-vitro fertilization (IVF). “I thought it was pretty cool that I was made in a Petri dish,” she said, and added that she never had much interest in finding out who her biological father was. “I assumed he’d be a nice, generous, healthy bloke because that’s what they advertise. You don’t think there’s any lies.”

But after her mother died, Dawson began to be curious about finding any potential siblings. At a conference for donor-conceived families, she met a woman who looked similar to her, but their donor codes weren’t the same, so they didn’t think they were related. Later, however, after uploading her DNA to an ancestry site, the woman was a sibling match — and she wasn’t the only one.

Another sister was found, and though all three were related, they all had different donor codes. Eventually, Dawson found her biological father, and discovered that he had donated for years using different names, at different hospitals and clinics, which is what led to the different donor codes.

“He said all of the fake names that he used and that he went to six clinics and four hospitals,” Dawson said. “I think that there were seven [names] including his own. Then if you go to 10 different clinics and hospitals, like he said he did … I estimate that there could be up to 700 siblings.”

READ: This op-ed calls for the ‘right’ to IVF. Here’s why this makes no sense.

So far, Dawson has discovered 56 siblings. She has also discovered that the donor has schizophrenia, and that there is an inherited risk for bowel cancer, making her believe it’s more important than ever to track them down. “I can’t live with myself if I don’t try to get that information to them,” she said.

Similar issues have happened in Australia with other donors, with hundreds of children being conceived from one man — if not over a thousand.

In her case, Dawson said not enough is being done by the fertility clinic to let families affected know. “The clinics will only send a letter to my siblings’ parents … to an address that’s potentially 20 to 40 years old,” she said. “I don’t really know anyone that lives in the same house as they did 40 years ago.” And she said she’s bothered at how little effort is being put into the issue, by both the clinics and the government’s regulatory agencies.

“If someone had information for you that could save your life, how would you feel knowing that the clinics that created you … [are] blocking you from having it?” she said. “They’ve said that all they can really do is strongly encourage the clinics to act. There’s millions going into making these babies, but nothing going into protecting them.”

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