Identity and genetic origins : an ethical exploration of the late discovery of adoptive and donor-insemination offspring status

Riley, Helen Joyce (2012) Identity and genetic origins : an ethical exploration of the late discovery of adoptive and donor-insemination offspring status. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This thesis is an ethical and empirical exploration of the late discovery of genetic origins in two contexts, adoption and sperm donor-assisted conception.

This exploration has two interlinked strands of concern. The first is the identification of ‘late discovery’ as a significant issue of concern, deserving of recognition and acknowledgment. The second concerns the ethical implications of late discovery experiences for the welfare of the child.

The apparently simple act of recognition of a phenomenon is a precondition to any analysis and critique of it. This is especially important when the phenomenon arises out of social practices that arouse significant debate in ethical and legal contexts.

As the new reproductive technologies and some adoption practices remain highly contested, an ethical exploration of this long neglected experience has the potential to offer new insights and perspectives in a range of contexts. It provides an opportunity to revisit developmental debate on the relative merit or otherwise of biological versus social influences, from the perspective of those who have lived this dichotomy in practise. Their experiences are the human face of the effects arising from decisions taken by others to intentionally separate their biological and social worlds, an action which has then been compounded by family and institutional secrecy from birth. This has been accompanied by a failure to ensure that normative standards and values are upheld for them. Following discovery, these factors can be exacerbated by a lack of recognition and acknowledgement of their concerns by family, friends, community and institutions.

Late discovery experiences offer valuable insights to inform discussions on the ethical meanings of child welfare, best interests, parental responsibility, duty of care and child identity rights in this and other contexts. They can strengthen understandings of what factors are necessary for a child to be able to live a reasonably happy or worthwhile life.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 51537
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Mathews, Benjamin & Jordan, Trevor
Keywords: adoption, best interests of the child, child welfare, donor-assisted conception, donorconceived offspring, donor anonymity, duty of care, ethics, ethics of identity, genetic origins, identity, kinship, late discovery, late discovery of adoptive status, late discovery of donor-insemination offspring status, law, legislation, medicalisation, moral understandings, well-being, narrative, resemblance, secrecy, sperm donor
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 10 Jul 2012 04:32
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 02:16

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