The sperm donor 'dads' connecting with their many, many children

The sperm donor 'dads' connecting with their many, many children

He donated sperm every week for three years when he was a cash-strapped college student 20 years ago, and now Todd Whitehurst is still counting his children.

Four years ago, Mr Whitehurst, from New York, got an email from a girl named Virginia. Mr Whitehurst, a 45-year-old medical engineer, said: 'She said, basically, "I'm 14, and I think I'm your daughter".' Shortly after, he found a son, Tyler, who is now 14. Then he found another, Gavin, now 16. That led to another child, and another, and yet another.

He said: 'It was definitely overwhelming. I'm not even sure how many children there are.' So far he has found nine children sired by his sperm. Statistically speaking, said one biogeneticist, Mr Whitehurst could be the father of 42 to 60 children.

Because of a lack of industry regulation, high totals are all too probable, especially for prolific college kids like Mr Whitehurst. He was paid $50 a time at a clinic on the Stanford University campus in the 1980s and 1990s.

A web site set up for the children of sperm donors has discovered a number of 'superdads' who have fathered dozens, sometimes hundreds, of children. One top seed in Virginia has sired 129 kids and still counting, according to the Donor Sibling Registry, a nonprofit that helps connect families with biological fathers and siblings, the New York Post reports.

Wendy Kramer, a mother to a sperm-donor child, started the online registry when her son began asking questions about his father. She said one donor in the Boston area has been traced to 72 kids.

She added that the registry has found 92 groups of 10 or more offspring, and 336 groups that have up to nine siblings. There's no limit on how many banks a donor can sell his sperm to and about 21 per cent of donor fathers have given to more than one, according to Mrs Kramer.

Albert Anouna, director of Biogenetics and Sperm Bank of New York, cryo clinics should destroy a donor's sperm after it has produced about ten live births. Birth numbers are self-reported by pregnant mothers, which he admits is an incomplete and inconsistent system.

Compounding the problem, donors are screened so that the most fertile get selected, because high sperm count is most likely to produce a pregnancy. High-performers who rack up many pregnancies are among the most popular donors selected by women.

'Up until 1999, physicians could order a pool of vials for their patients,' he said. 'They'd come in and the doctor would say, "This one works fine - it's already gotten three women pregnant. Why don't you try it?"'

Mr Whitehurst is one of a handful of donor dads to step forward and connect with his children. Describing the moment he received that first email from Virginia, he said: 'It was pretty wild. She had my donor number, which I hadn't ever given anybody.

'She sent a picture. She looked a lot like me.' He emailed her back, and Virginia encouraged him to go to the Donor Sibling Registry. His donor number immediately turned up two other families, and later, three more. One of his donor mothers actually has three kids from his semen.

A few years ago, Mr Whitehurst, who has two kids from a previous marriage, travelled to meet Virginia, Tyler and Gavin. Now Tyler and Gavin frequently contact him by phone and emails and phone calls with him. Mr Whitehurst said: 'It's been a wonderful and enriching experience, and I am very happy that I have met them.'

Article: 20th June 2011

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Posted: 25/06/2011 11:29:33


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