Journal of the European Society for Gynaecological Endoscopy


Donor-conceived children looking for their sperm donor: what do they want to know?

A. Ravelingien, V. Provoost, G. Pennings

Bioethics Institute Ghent, Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences, Ghent University, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

Correspondence at:

donor conception, open-identity donation, donor searching, donor-conceived offspring, identity

Published online: Jan 14 2014


Objective: This paper aims to gain in-depth understanding of why some donor-conceived offspring want to know the identity of their sperm donor.
Methods: Step-by-step inductive thematic analysis was performed on first-hand quotes from donor-conceived offspring selected from a wide range of sources (including empirical studies and donor conception networks, registries and support groups).
Results: We found that at least 7 different objectives can underlie the wish to know one’s donor: to avoid medical risks and consanguineous relationships; to connect with one’s roots; to complete one’s life (hi-)story; to understand where one’s traits come from; to discover or assess one’s defining characteristics and capabilities; to rectify a wrong-doing, and to map out one’s ancestral history.
Conclusion: The analysis shows that there is great variance among identity-seekers in the weight they attribute to wanting to know their donor. It is also clear that they have very different assumptions about the role and importance of genetics in terms of establishing ‘who they are’ or ‘can become’, including deterministic misconceptions. Rather than treat all donor-conceived offspring’s needs as of equal concern, this analysis should help distinguish between and assess the relevance of the various motivations.