Accepted Paper:

Lost somewhere between Sweden and the UK  


Jennifer Speirs (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

Arguments in support of continued semen donor anonymity in the UK have involved the appropriation of evidence through the partial replication, decontextualisation and alteration of facts. My paper analyses this as a moral strategy deriving from beliefs about what it should mean to be a father.

Paper long abstract:

Opinion in the UK has been divided over whether people conceived with donated gametes should be able to access identifying information about their genetic (donor) parent(s). In the debates prior to the passing of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, the medical profession lobbied for permanent anonymity for donors. It was argued that the number of semen donors in Sweden had decreased following legislative change there in 1985 which permitted identifying information about donors to be made available to donor offspring, when they reached maturity. This argument was based on a misquotation of a report by a visiting UK social worker about the effects of the legislation on donor numbers. Although there was a temporary decrease in donors which was partly provoked by some clinicians in Sweden being unprepared to work under the new law, the 'fact' that there has been a permanent decrease in numbers has continued to be repeated in the UK by clinicians and politicians opposed to the introduction of regulations in the UK in 2005 which removed previous provisions for donating anonymously. Policies supporting donor identification which allegedly reduce treatment options for people with fertility problems due to donor shortage, are considered unethical, whereas donor anonymity is not.

My paper explores how cultural values, in this case about how forms of relatedness should be constituted and what it means to be a father, are revealed through the appropriation and repetition of a fact which, decontextualised, turns out not to be a replica of the original.

Panel P08
The dilemma of replication