Instant Theory

Friday, November 04, 2005

Ever donated sperm? It might catch up to you.

A 15-year-old boy has just tracked down his father (an 'anonymous' sperm donor) by using DNA analysis, genealogical records, and the internet. Basically, the boy used the DNA to identify men with similar DNA, two of which had the same surname . The boy's mother had been told the donor's date and place of birth, so he found all the men born in that place on that day. Only one matched the surname: his father.

I wonder how this man reacted? The story mentions that banks may not be able to guarantee anonymity to donors if their offspring have the same detective abilities (and a computer and $289 for the DNA-testing) as the boy had. A bioethicist was quoted as saying, "The case shows that there are ethical and social concerns about assisted reproduction that we did not think about."

Wow. It kind of seems obvious that there would be unforeseen consequences to assisted reproduction. Even if they were college students just "trading their sperm for beer money," donors should have realized that they could have a dozen offspring out there. Maybe they even crossed them on the street or worked with them or taught them in school. And maybe they'll even ring their doorbell and say, "Hi, Dad!"

This technique might not work for everyone, but wouldn't it be cool if everyone in the world could participate in this? We could create a great, giant family tree and see how we're all related. That might even be more powerful than the first images of a border-less Earth from space.


  • Interesting point, but what do you mean at the end that we should all participate in this? Should we donate our gametes and see how long it takes to undo all that forking in our family trees?

    By Blogger catfish, at 2:07 PM  

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