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报刊文摘:父亲是个捐精者

2006-05-16 16:46

  Even as a child, Christine Whipp, now a 46-year-old grandmother, says she was aware that somehow life was not as it pretended to be.

  Her carpenter father had been an insulin-dependent diabetic who died when she was six. Christine and her mother never got on.

  Ten years ago, Christine's mother referred to the secret directly for the first time.

  "She told me that I had been conceived through donor insemination (DI) at the Margaret Jackson clinic in Exeter," says Christine. "I was 40 when I found out that my father was a glass jar with a blob of sperm in it. My father doesn't have a face, or a name and he wasn't even a one-night stand. If my mum had had an affair at least there would have been sex and lust, something human rather than something so cold, scientific and clinical. My parents never even met. How weird is that? I still feel like a freak, a fake. I don't feel I know who I am any more."

  Between 1940 and 1983, 483 children were conceived through anonymous DI at the private Exeter clinic, most by affluent middle-class mothers, not factory girls like Christine's mum. Christine has never knowingly met a single one of them, though it's almost certain that some-even scores - are her half - siblings. She has no way of tracking the donor or her half-siblings down. Christine has no access to records, and it is likely that none survive. She has no rights to know anything about the man who helped give her life. The situation hurts. 'I was only made to assuage my parents' reproductive vanity,' she says bitterly.

  Almost 18,000 babies have been born through donated gametes (sperm and eggs) and embryos in the UK since the regulatory Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority was set up in 1991. Anonymous donations have allowed infertile heterosexual couples, gay couples and single women to create families that would otherwise never have existed. Between 1940 and 1990, tens of thousands more were conceived mainly using donated sperm, the low-tech end of gamete donation which has been around for over a century.

  While the first baby conceived with a donated egg was not born until 1987, the first documented case of donor insemination took place in 1884, when the Philadelphia-based doctor William Pan coast inseminated a sedated woman with a medical student's sperm without her permission or knowledge. Sperm insemination remains, by far, the most common donor conception procedure.

  No one can say exactly how many people alive in Britain today were conceived through donor conception-estimates put it at around 40,000.

  The received wisdom was that secrecy was in everyone's interests. The biological mother and her husband usually wanted to pretend that, genetically, the child was completely theirs. The clinics encouraged women to go home after artificial insemination and make love with their infertile husbands. Then the couple could cling to the possibility-however remote-that the child was really theirs. Some clinics even mixed a sterile husband's sperm with the donor's to keep the parental fantasy alive.

  The donor dads were shadowy figures, guaranteed anonymity by the clinics. That way there was no risk of the past —— and, conceivably, hundreds of offspring —— returning to haunt the donors, and clinics did not have the expense and hassle of records. Keep it secret, it's simpler, advised the doctors. But it is not proving that easy. Someone forgot that gurgling, happy babies grow up into adults with complex needs.

  "DI robbed me of half my genetic history, and it robbed my children and grandchildren too."says Christine Whipp, she argued that she had the right to know her parentage.

  Since 1991, details about donors —— name, place and date of birth, medical history, physical characteristics, religion, occupation and interests —— have had to be registered with the HFEA but offspring have no rights of access. They may only check with the HFEA that they are not related to someone they intend to marry or ask the HFEA —— presumably they have to be, firstly, suspicious —— if they were the product of donated gametes or embryos when they reach 18.

  The HFEA says that it has yet to face a situation where it is asked to reveal the identity of a donor because a DI child has a genetic condition or a disease such as leukaemia where bone marrow from a biological father might be needed to save a child's life. "But the law is clear at the moment,' said a spokesman. "The identity of the donor cannot be revealed."

  Joanna Rose, 28, DI-conceived, was recently granted leave by the High Court to begin an action under the Human Rights Act that would force authorities to give more 'non-identifying' information about donors to offspring born since 1991. Ms Rose, complains that she and her half-sibling Adam, 34, a conservation biologist, have suffered an identity crisis from knowing nothing about their biological father.

  The fertility industry is already issuing dark warnings that an end to anonymity will create a shortage of sperm, eggs and embryos, a terrifying prospect for the women having trouble conceiving, and the men who have difficulty fathering a child.

  Melissa was conceived through DI 37 years ago. Melissa's mother blurted out the truth in 1996 during a heart-to-heart chat. But it was five months before her father knew the secret was out. Her mum feared he might have a heart attack.

  Father and daughter have rarely discussed it since. Melissa, an only child, loves her dad.

  Melissa would like to discuss with her father the possibility of being more open with their friends. She spent two years abroad after learning the truth and discovered she felt "freer" when she could speak about being DI. "When I'm home I feel I'm an actor in a play again," she says. Melissa felt something was not quite right as she was growing up. There was nothing she could put her finger on, or articulate, just this lingering unease. She grew up oddly disappointed that she was not at all like her father."He's extremely capable, practical and focused," she says. "I am the opposite extreme and I always felt he deserved someone more like himself."

  Since 1996, she has veered between the joy of the truth and despair at an "insoluble situation". She, too, talks of identity crisis. She wants to find her donor father but does not know how. She is most angry at the Government which, she argues, ought to do more to protect the rights of the DI children that adults are desperate to have. "My mother didn't think about the long-term implications," she says. "They just wanted a baby so much."

  Melissa argues that in future clinics should only recruit donors willing to be identified. She also wants a voluntary register for past donors. Because the consultation paper only consider the possibility of identifying future donors, Melissa says tens of thousands of DI offspring are being offered no hope of ever finding their donor parents. Melissa asks why, when adoption law changes were made retrospective, that is being ruled out by the Government for DI.

  The motivation of sperm donors varies. There are students who think, "£15 a throw, twice a week, good beer money", older men with perhaps more altruistic motives and, of course, egotists who, before limits were put on the number of sperm donations, seemed keen on hundreds of "mini?me's" running around.

  Until a couple of years ago there had been little research into the happiness and wellbeing of DI children. But a few studies since suggest many grow up feeling a secret is being kept from them, and at least half suspect their 'social' dad is not their genetic father before being told. Most think they have a right to find out who the donor is, and 60 per cent want to meet him. Despite evidence that secrecy is damaging, one study of DI families in Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain found that only 9 per cent of parents had told the truth to their children by the age of 12.

  William, 18, from north London, is a rarity. He cannot remember a time when he did not know that another man had helped his parents, Walter Merricks and Olivia Montuschi, create their family. "It is something I completely accept," says William.

  His sister, Susannah, 15, conceived through another sperm donor, recently wrote touchingly of her interest in the man who 'gave me life and my parents great joy'. But William has no curiosity about his donor. He does not look at all like Walter, a lawyer, but he says he shares many of his personality traits. It's proof, William says, of the power of nurture.

  William thinks it would be "outrageous" to identify past donors, who were previously promised anonymity. He argues that the rights of adoptees to information about their birth mothers is greater than those of DI offspring. In DI, I see the sperm and eggs as components in baby-making, like the wheels are components of a car. Giving up sperm is not like giving up a baby.

  William's parents decided to be honest with their children from the start. Their motivation was not fear that their children might suffer an identity crisis as adults, but a gut feeling that a solid family could not be build on a lie.

  Canadian filmmaker Barry Stevens, conceived through DI in London 49 years ago, argues that even if sperm donations drop when anonymity disappears, why should DI offspring sacrifice their rights so sperm banks can be full? Stevens, who recently made an award?winning film about trying to track down his biological father —— and perhaps 200 half-siblings —— is part of a lobby pushing the Canadian government to give DI offspring more details about donors.

  Stevens now argues the state has a duty to children whose parents lie to them. "The first relationship between a citizen and larger society is the birth certificate. In the case of these children that document is a lie. I would like to see everyone have access to their birth information." How, he asks, can genetic heritage be so deeply embedded in our culture and then DI offspring be expected to accept that, for them, it does not matter?

  "Everyone was so keen to tell us it didn't matter. And then suddenly I felt this enormous anger-that was for me to decide."

  [参考译文]

  46岁的克里斯蒂娜·惠普尔现在已经是祖母了。她说,自己在孩提时代就觉得生活中似乎有什么地方不对劲。她的父亲有糖尿病,在她6岁那年就离开了人世。她和母亲一直合不来。

  10年前,克里斯蒂娜的母亲第一次直接提到了这个秘密。

  克里斯蒂娜说:“她告诉我,她是在埃克塞特的玛格丽特·杰克逊诊所通过人工授精怀上我的。我直到40岁才发现自己的父亲原来是一个盛着精液的玻璃杯。我父亲没有面孔,没有名字,甚至不是一夜情的结果。如果我是妈妈短暂风流的产物,那至少涉及性和欲望,是一种人性的东西,而不是这么客观冰冷而具有科学性的东西。我的父母从未见过面。这有多离奇?我现在仍然觉得自己仿佛是个怪物,一个假货。我弄不清自己到底是谁。”

  从1940至1983年,埃克塞特的这家私人诊所通过匿名捐精液的人工授精孕育了483个孩子。他们的父亲大多是富裕的中产阶级,像克里斯蒂娜母亲这样当工人的极少。这些在玛格丽特·杰克逊诊所通过人工授精出生的人中间,几乎必定有克里斯蒂娜的同父异母兄弟姐妹,但克里斯蒂娜从未与他们见过面(也许见过但她不知道)。她没办法找到那个捐精者或她的兄弟姐妹。她也没办法查阅有关档案——这些档案很可能已经不复存在。关于那个给她生命的男子,她无权了解任何事情。这令她非常苦恼。“我来到这个世上只是为了满足我父母的生育虚荣心,”她忿忿地说。

  自从人工授精和胚胎学管理局(HFEA)于1991年成立后,英国大约有1.8万婴儿通过捐献的配子(精子、卵子)和胚胎孕育出生的。匿名捐献使不能生育的异性夫妇、同性恋伙伴和单身女性有了孩子。从1940年至1990年,又有数万名婴儿主要通过捐献配子出生,其中大多数是通过捐献者的精液人工授精的:这是较低级的配子捐献技术。

  直到1987年,才出现了第一例通过捐献的卵子孕育的婴儿。而通过捐献者的精子进行人工授精最早发生于1884年。当时,费城的医生威廉·潘科斯特在事先没有征得当事人同意的情况下,用一个医学院学生的精子给一位服了镇静剂的妇女人工授精。通过捐献者的精子进行人工授精,是用捐献者的配子帮助人们怀孕的最常见方式。

  没有说得清今天到底有多少英国人是通过这种方式出生的。据估计,人数在4万左右。

  人们普遍的看法是:保守秘密符合所有人的利益。接受人工授精的妇女和她的丈夫通常都假装孩子完全是他们的。诊所鼓励妇女在人工授精后回家与丈夫做爱。然后,这对夫妇就可以想像这个孩子的确是他们的——尽管这种可能性微乎其微。有些诊所甚至把不育丈夫的精液与捐献者的精液混合,以便让孩子的父母保持幻想。

  通过捐精成为父亲的人都面目不清。诊所保证不透露他们的姓名。这样就不会出现成百上千个后代回来搔扰捐献者;此外,诊所也不必承担相应的费用和麻烦。医生们建议说:保守秘密,这样做比较省事。但是,事实证明并没有那么简单。有人忘了,那些格格笑的快乐婴儿有一天会长大,变成有复杂需要的成年人。

  “人工授精剥夺了我一半的基因历史,也剥夺了我子女和孙子女一半的基因历史,”克里斯蒂娜·惠普尔说。她认为自己有权了解自己的生身父母。

  自1991年后,捐献者的名字、住址、出生日期、医疗记录、外貌特征、宗教信仰、职业和兴趣等详细情况都必须在HFEA登记,但是后代无权查阅这些资料。他们只能通过HFEA证实自己和结婚对象没有血缘关系;如果他们怀疑自己是捐献配子或胚胎的产物,他们在18岁后也可向HFEA查询。

  HFEA说,该机构还要面临一种情况:如果人工授精孩子患有遗传病或白血病这类疾病,他(她)可能需要生父的骨髓才能活命。HFEA一位发言人说:“但是,目前的法律非常明确。捐献者的身份必须保密。”

  28岁的乔安娜·罗斯也是通过人工授精出生的。最近,高等法院准许她根据《人权法》开始一项诉讼,这项诉讼可能将迫使有关机构向1991年后出生的人工授精孩子公布更多有关捐献者的信息。罗斯说,她和她同母异父的兄弟亚当因为对生身父亲一无所知而陷入身份危机。

  但是,生育业已经发生警告:结束匿名将使精子、卵子和胚胎供应不足。这对于不育夫妇和患不育症的男子是可怕的前景。

  37年前,梅利莎的母亲通过人工授精怀上了她。1996年,她母亲在一次坦诚相见的谈话中对她说出了真相。但直到5个月后,她的父亲才知道这个秘密已经不再是秘密。

  从那以后,父女二人几乎没有谈论过此事。梅莉莎是独女,她爱父亲。在她逐渐成长的过程中,有些事情似乎不对劲。她说不清楚,只是一种挥之不去的不安感。她失望地发现,自己一点也不像父亲。“他能力极强、讲究实际而且非常专注,”她说,“我却是相反的极端,我总觉得他应该有一个更像他的孩子。”

  1996年以后,她一直不知道应该为真相大白而高兴还是为一种“无法解决的情况”而绝望。她也谈到身份危机。她希望找到生父,但不知道从何找起。她对政府非常愤怒。她认为,政府应当为保护人工受精孩子付出更多的努力。“我母亲没有想到长远的问题,”她说,“他们只是特别想要个孩子。”

  梅利莎认为,医院以后应当只接受愿意讲明身份的捐献者。她还希望过去的捐献者自愿登记。因为有关的讨论文件只考虑到查明未来配子捐献者的身份。她认为,既然对收养法所做的修改可以溯及以往,人工受精方面的法律也应该如此。

  捐精者的动机各不相同。有些学生觉得:“每次15磅,一周两次,用来买酒喝挺不错。”年纪较大的人也许会有更为利他的想法。当然,(在捐精次数受到限制以前)也有一些利己主义者似乎热衷于创造出成百上千个“小我”。

  几年前还没有对人工授精孩子生活是否幸福的调查。但是,后来的几项研究表明,许多人工授精孩子在成长过程中觉得父母有秘密不告诉他们,至少有一半人怀疑自己的父亲不是生父。多数人工授精孩子都觉得有权知道捐精者到底是谁,60%的人希望和他见面。尽管有证据表明隐瞒事实可能产生不利影响,对英国、意大利、荷兰和西班牙的人工授精家庭进行的调查示,只有9%的家长在孩子12岁以前把真相告诉他们。

  来自伦敦北部的威廉是个例外。18岁的他从小知道另一个人帮助父母(沃尔特·梅里克斯和奥利维娅·蒙图斯基)创造了他们的孩子。威廉说:“我完全接受这一点。”

  他的妹妹,15岁的苏珊是通过另一位捐精者孕育的。她最近写了一篇非常感人的文章,表示她对那个“给了我生命和父母巨大欢乐”的男子很感兴趣。但是威廉对那个捐精者毫无兴趣。威廉看起来一点不像沃尔特,但和他有很多共同点。威廉说,这就是养育的力量。

  威廉认为,要查明过去捐精者的身份是“不道德的”,因为医院已经许诺为他们保密。他认为被领养的孩子比人工授精孩子更有权了解生身父母,因为精子和卵子只是制造婴儿的事件,放弃精子与放弃一个孩子并不一样。

  威廉的父母一开始就决定和孩子说实话。他们的动机不是担心孩子长大后出现身份危机,而是一种基本的感觉:稳固的家庭不能建立在谎言上。

  49年前,加拿大电影人巴里·史蒂文斯通过人工授精在伦敦出生。他认为,即使因为取消匿名制使捐赠者减少,也不应该为了让精子库更充足而牺牲人工授精后代的合法权利。他最近拍摄的一部获奖影片反映了他设法寻找生身父亲和大约200名同父异母兄弟姐妹的经历。这部影片是游说加拿大政府让人工授精孩子了解关于捐精者更多情况的动力之一。

  史蒂文斯认为,对于那些向孩子说谎的父母,政府也有责任。他说:“公民与社会的第一个关系就是出生证明。就这些孩子而言,这个证明是假的。我希望所有人都能了解自己的出生情况。”他说,为什么基因遗传在我们的文化中如此根深蒂固,而人们却期望人工授精后代接受基因遗传根本不重要的看法?

  他说:“每个人都急于告诉我们这并不重要。我突然间觉得极为愤怒——这应该由我自己决定。”

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