A woman's case for the transparent

By Amanda Dunn
Health Reporter

October 30, 2003

As Myfanwy Walker drove across town two years ago to meet her biological father for the first time, she had to pull into a service station, fearing she was going to be sick with anxiety.

Through a very determined search, Ms Walker had tracked down Michael Linden, the man who donated the sperm in 1977 that eventually helped create her and her younger brother.

Since the shock of being told at 20 how she had been conceived, she felt she needed to know more about him to have a more complete sense of her identity.

"I remember walking in the door and seeing his face, and knowing that he was my father," Ms Walker, 22, recalled yesterday at a Melbourne symposium exploring the ethical and legal issues of donor-assisted reproduction.

Ms Walker knows she was lucky to have found Mr Linden. Many children born from donor-assisted reproduction have access only to basic, non-identifying information about donor parents.

Not only are donors reticent about providing information, so too are some recipient parents.

Infertility Treatment Authority chief executive Helen Szoke said surveys showed that only about 20 per cent of recipient parents told their children the story of their conception.

And for children who do know the story and want to find donor parents, it is often a long and frustrating wait for them to come forward.

It is only since 1988 that participants have been required to give limited information about themselves. So far, the authority's voluntary register has enticed few participants - only 37 donors, six offspring and 22 recipient parents have applied in both the pre-1988 and post-1988 groups.

About 150 children are born in Victoria through donor-assisted reproduction each year.

The chairman of Melbourne IVF, John McBain, said that even though recipient parents were encouraged to tell their children about their origins, some just wanted to get on with family life.

"I think there's a fear of another party coming in," he said.

Having tried and failed to contact her biological father through the Royal Women's Hospital, where her parents had received treatment, Ms Walker took her story to The Australian newspaper in 2001. Mr Linden saw the article and made contact.

For Ms Walker, finding her biological father has given her all the information she was looking for.

She and Mr Linden are now friends and are in regular contact.

Her parents, too, have also been in touch with him.

"I think they understand that knowing Michael is important to me, and they accept that," she said.


See Also 20040809 Why donor offspring need to know the truth

                20031030 A woman's case for the transparent - sperm donors Australia - Michael Linden