A critical analysis of sperm donation practices : the personal and social effects of disrupting the unity of biological and social relatedness for the offspring

Rose, Joanna (2009) A critical analysis of sperm donation practices : the personal and social effects of disrupting the unity of biological and social relatedness for the offspring. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This thesis critically analyses sperm donation practices from a child-centred perspective. It examines the effects, both personal and social, of disrupting the unity of biological and social relatedness in families affected by donor conception. It examines how disruption is facilitated by a process of mediation which is detailed using a model provided by Sunderland (2002). This model identifies mediating movements - alienation, translation, re-contextualisation and absorption - which help to explain the powerful and dominating material, and social and political processes which occur in biotechnology, or in reproductive technology in this case. The understanding of such movements and mediation of meanings is inspired by the complementary work of Silverstone (1999) and Sunderland. This model allows for a more critical appreciation of the movement of meaning from previously inalienable aspects of life to alienable products through biotechnology (Sunderland, 2002). Once this mediation in donor conception is subjected to critical examination here, it is then approached from different angles of investigation.

The thesis posits that two conflicting notions of the self are being applied to fertility-frustrated adults and the offspring of reproductive interventions. Adults using reproductive interventions receive support to maximise their genetic continuity, but in so doing they create and dismiss the corresponding genetic discontinuity produced for the offspring. The offspring’s kinship and identity are then framed through an experimental postmodernist notion, presenting them as social rather than innate constructs. The adults using the reproductive intervention, on the other hand, have their identity and kinship continuity framed and supported as normative, innate, and based on genetic connection. This use of shifting frameworks is presented as unjust and harmful, creating double standards and a corrosion of kinship values, connection and intelligibility between generations; indeed, it is put forward as adult-centric.

The analysis of other forms of human kinship dislocation provided by this thesis explores an under-utilised resource which is used to counter the commonly held opinion that any disruption of social and genetic relatedness for donor offspring is insignificant. The experiences of adoption and the stolen generations are used to inform understanding of the personal and social effects of such kinship disruption and potential reunion for donor offspring. These examples, along with laws governing international human rights, further strengthen the appeal here for normative principles and protections based on collective knowledge and standards to be applied to children of reproductive technology.

The thesis presents the argument that the framing and regulation of reproductive technology is excessively influenced by industry providers and users. The interests of these parties collide with and corrode any accurate assessments and protections afforded to the children of reproductive technology. The thesis seeks to counter such encroachments and concludes by presenting these protections, frameworks, and human experiences as resources which can help to address the problems created for the offspring of such reproductive interventions, thereby illustrating why these reproductive interventions should be discontinued.

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ID Code: 32012
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Harrison, Paul & Burton, Judith
Keywords: critical analysis, gamete donation, paternity, fathers, sperm donation, biotechnology, mediation, alienation, translation, recontextualisation, absorption, HFEA, donor offspring, AID, donor insemination, adoption, stolen generations, human rights, normative
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 27 Apr 2010 05:54
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:56

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