Thursday January 22, 2004
Siaron West is so very grateful to have a daughter, now three-and-a-half, by donor insemination that she has twice donated her own eggs to fertility clinics to help other women realise their desperate need to have a child. It gives her a unique perspective on the issues around donor anonymity.
For Dr West, who is a Cardiff GP, donor insemination was the only option, because her husband Pete has severe progressive multiple sclerosis. An attempt at ICSI - the surgical removal of a single sperm from the testis - failed, and coincided with a deterioration in his condition. They now think there may even be a genetic component of his MS.
Catrin's birth made her decide to help other women. Last February and the February before she donated eggs. She knows that four women have used them in attempts to get pregnant.
She does not know who they are or whether they have succeeded, but the thought of one day meeting a young man or woman with her genes whom she did not bring up does not disturb her at all. And she has already told Catrin the circumstances of her birth, "so that there will never be a time when she didn't know".
As a doctor, she said, she knew that donor insemination could never be guaranteed to remain a secret. Something as simple as a mismatch in blood group between Catrin and her father could give it away.
"I feel quite strongly that in the past the medical profession has colluded in this whole secrecy thing because they thought they were doing it in the best interests of the patient. They told them that nobody need ever know it was not their child," she said.
She was not interested in who her sperm donor was, but it occurred to her that Catrin might one day want to know, so she sent off for the details available.
It was reassuring, she said, to discover that he was not a student making £20 but a married man with children who knew people with infertility problems and wanted to help, as she had.
She hopes the women to whom she donated eggs had children but, she said:
"I don't feel tied to them at all". Parenthood was not about genetic material,
she said, but about the years spent raising your child.
© Copyright 2004, The Guardian