Friday, 1 October 2010

Measures guaranteed to reduce supply

“If you don’t want to be identified, don’t be a donor,” Ms. Pratten said. “It’s that simple.”
So says the Canadian woman suing the Ontario government and College of Physicians and Surgeons to get the identity of her biological father.
A ruling in favour of Ms. Pratten would bring B.C. in line with other jurisdictions, such as Britain, Sweden and Australia where anonymous donation is banned and registries have been created.

Canada’s own Assisted Human Reproductive Act of 2004 already makes it illegal to pay for gamete donors, a measure that some contend has resulted in a dearth of sperm and egg donations across the country. Others worry that removing a donor’s anonymity will translate into a further lack of donors.

“In Canada, we don’t yet have clear legislation that sets out what a donor’s rights and responsibilities might be,” said Kelly Jordan, a Toronto-based lawyer who specializes in family law and assisted reproductive technologies. “These donors might have potential obligations should they be identified.”

Margaret Somerville, director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, says the gamete donor system as it exists now deprives donor offspring of their human rights.

“The problem is, donors don’t have rights,” she said. “You don’t have a right to donate your sperm. You can’t go around saying someone else has a duty to receive it. What we’ve done is given priority to adults’ wishes, coverted those wishes into rights, and completely ignored the impact on the children.”
What about the wishes of children who will fail to come into existence because of Somerville's lobbying and Pratten's litigation? Don't they count too?

And, further, it's hard to imagine any potential people who, ex ante, wouldn't be willing to make the deal "higher probability of existing plus no chance of knowing who the donor was" over "much lower probability of existing plus high chance of knowing who the donor was". Behind the veil, it's hard not to imagine really high majority consent. This kind of ex post chiseling by the potential people who became people, at the expense of those who have yet to become people, ought not be condoned.

Or can Stephen Colbert single-handedly solve the world's shortage?

More seriously, we'd expect a shift in supply towards men who don't expect claims to be able to be enforced against them. That probably isn't a good thing.


  1. "What about the wishes of children who will fail to come into existence because of Somerville's lobbying and Pratten's litigation? Don't they count too?"

    Short answer, no. By analogy condoms should be banned and abortions made illegal. Reductio ad absurdum.

  2. I'd lean that way too, Matthew, except that it seems rather likely that the woman bringing suit would not exist had the state of the world which she seeks to bring about existed prior to her conception. It has the feel of "pulling the ladder up behind me that none may follow".

    If we'd include before the veil all potential people rather than the set whose existence depends on this sole policy, then we'd quickly run into repugnant conclusion problems.

    But you're probably right - there mightn't be any particularly good reason to so restrict the set. In that case, the Veil argument is a bad one.

  3. Canada probably needs to tidy up the obligations/rights between donor and offspring prior to doing anything with the anonymous status of the donors. Can't really believe that they've legislated and not addressed that clearly. Surely the grey area of legal liability puts off potential donors anyway regardless of whether they're anonymous - after all there's always a chance that you'll be identified if someone really wants to.

  4. Hard anonymity protects donors regardless of changes to liability regime. Decent liability but no anonymity exposes donors to risk of changes to liability.