LETHAL SECRETS: The Shocking Consequences and Unsolved Problems of Artificial Insemination by Annette & Reuben Pannor Baran

LETHAL SECRETS: The Shocking Consequences and Unsolved Problems of Artificial Insemination

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For nearly a century, family doctors and fertility specialists have simultaneously protected a husband's sterility and fulfilled a wife's desire to bear children by inseminating the woman with anonymously donated sperm. Outside the couple and doctor, no one need know the family secret. But after interviewing 171 individuals, including donors, offspring, and couples in donor-insemination families, psychotherapists Baran and Pannor found profound, troubling repercussions from this practice. Within marriages, ""the husband became weaker. . .the wife became stronger. . .The wife was the real mother of the children. . ."" The children of these unions often sensed an atmosphere of dishonesty. Some children were actually abused by their fathers, who were not restrained by the incest taboo; other children were singled out for criticism by their fathers. In many cases the secret was stumbled upon or revealed in a divorce, but ""The truth is now juxtaposed against the dead-end barrier of anonymity, before which the donor offspring can only feel further victimized and powerless."" Even donors, often medical students whose ""deposits"" at the sperm bank brought extra cash, were affected. One man told of being haunted years later by the idea of several children of his own living around him, unknown, He feared they might try to marry each other. The authors also interviewed lesbian couples and single women who created their own families without men. To them, the authors caution that ""the child has half of his genetic makeup from a person. . . [who] cannot be ignored. . ."" Baran and Pannor offer a kind of bill of rights for the principals: donor offspring have a right to know and contact their genetic fathers; parents must provide correct information and accept the importance of the genetic father: donor fathers must accept lifelong responsibility and may inquire about their donor-conceived children; and the provider of the service must screen donors and keep careful records for posterity. An earnest, thoughtful treatment of a topic often locked in the closet.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1989
Publisher: Warner