Home DNA tests doom anonymity for sperm, egg donors

Kramer contacted the man, who said he was “thrilled” to hear from him. The two have stayed in regular contact ever since.

“He was the very first donor conceived person to find his donor through DNA testing,” said Wendy Kramer, who founded the Donor Sibling Registry in 2003. Now it has 60,000 members.

Extended family 

The four DNA websites that offer match services — Ancestry, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, My Heritage — today have so many users that it is rare for someone not to find at least one distant relative.

From that second or third degree cousin, traditional genealogy tools can be employed to rebuild a family tree up to the shared ancestor, such as vital records, death notices and obituaries, census records, or newspaper archives.

Then, the possible donor can often be nailed down by elimination based on sex, age and location. The more public records there are, the faster the search.

Thanks to DNA sites, Kramer has found eight half brothers or sisters since 2017 — five of those just this summer.

In all, he has found 16 half siblings since 2005.

“It’s a reality that I could be continuing to find half siblings every couple of months or every year for the rest of my life, which is wild,” said Kramer.

“But it feels kind of normal to me.”

Kramer, who is 28 and a product manager at Google’s life sciences company Verily in San Francisco, said the “experience has been overwhelmingly positive.”

“I consider these people like extended family members.”

Banned in France 

Between 2015 and 2017, sales of DNA test kits boomed in the United States and allowed websites to build a critical mass of DNA profiles.

It was around that time when Erin Jackson learned she had been conceived with donor sperm.

She immediately tested her DNA and up popped a half-brother.

“The resemblance was undeniable,” said Jackson, a 38-year-old freelance writer.

Then, based on the name of a second cousin discovered on the site, and after some substantial genealogical research, she and her husband managed to trace the ancestry down to the donor.

Once contacted, he asked her not to write again.

Jackson says she hopes the end of anonymity will force sperm banks to limit the number of children born to the same donor.

“Having less anonymous donors is a good thing,” she said.

In the US, there are no restrictions. In Britain, a maximum is set at 10 families per donor.

The US case points to a future where anonymity laws in other countries regarding egg and sperm donations may become moot.

France, for instance, is now debating whether to end anonymity for donations. The law is currently strict there, and consumer DNA tests are banned.

But it is not hard to get around the ban, and in theory it would only take a few hundred thousand profiles to start to get matches.

It is already the case in Britain and, to a lesser extent, in the Netherlands, Moore said. 

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