December 19, 2007
Lawsuits Coming Over Genetic Inheritance?

Some members of the British House of Lords argue that the use of donor eggs and sperm to create offspring should not be kept secret from those offspring.

Children born from donor eggs or sperm could have the information recorded on their birth certificates.

An influential group of peers yesterday called for a law change to force parents to reveal donor conceptions.

Under the proposals, a special mark next to a child's name would reveal whether he or she was conceived naturally or with the help of a donor.

Parents who tried to hide the truth from their children could be fined or imprisoned.

What do we have a right to know? Should parents get to know that their kids are not genetically from them while the kids get kept in the dark? Deceived kids can pay a price as a result of the deception: when they look at their parents to judge their potential capabilities they will tend to more incorrectly guess their capabilities. The tendency to underestimate their capabilities kids who have genes that make them more capable.

But if the goal of knowing about your genetic parents is to provide useful insights about yourself then the rapid decline in the cost of genetic sequencing and testing will provide a much better way to do that by the time babies born today reach adulthood.

But knowing your genetic inheritance is less important than what is in your genetic inheritance. I expect some people to object to what they've been given as their genetic inheritance. After all, what you get in your genes has huge consequences. Why won't some unhappy and angry children sue?

I see lawsuits over genetic inheritance probably in about 35 years. Once people gain the ability to choose genetic variations for their children those children will grow up, see what decisions were made for them, and sue their legal parents over the genetic choices of their parents.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 December 19 09:42 PM  Bioethics Reproduction

Jason Bobe said at December 19, 2007 11:51 PM:

Hmmm...I'm not sure why donor eggs and sperm were singled out. Adoption and non-paternity are other modalities for creating family units with non-biological parent-child relationships. If this line of reasoning were applied independently of technology, wouldn't adoptive parents or mothers who kept non-paternity a secret from children be equally liable? Adoption and non-paternity have of course been around for many, many years. Is there precedent for children suing parents who keep these genetic secrets, I wonder? I suspect this might provide some insight into the future, if only as an indicator of behaviorial norms (less so for future policy environment).

WarriorZ said at December 20, 2007 8:20 AM:

As long as the donor is held liable for financial support ...

Doug Dante said at December 20, 2007 10:05 AM:

We have the right to know the basics about ourselves by the time we are 18. If bio-mom and dad killed each other in a gun battle, well we don't need to know that, parents can lie. If we dig, we will find the truth. But regarding our biology, yeah, there is a duty to truth there.

Brock said at December 20, 2007 11:37 AM:

Moot point. Kids will be doing DNA testing in Jr. High chem lab within 10 years. If there's anything odd about their ancestry, they'll figure it out for themselves.

Jason Bobe said at December 21, 2007 12:02 AM:

No doubt. Kids have already figured it out. It was 2005 when a 15-year old managed to unlock the identity of his anonymous father through his own devices.


Thizzare said at April 27, 2008 12:01 PM:

Jason is right in that all non-biological parents should be held to the same rules i disagree with warrior in that a sperm/egg doner should be held accountible for Aid. The person who takes sperm/egg from a bank should hold FULL responsibility for the DNA, thus said if i donate sperm 5 years later i should not be slammed with child payments on a child i did not opt to have. It would be the other parents Full legel child wich also would mean i should hold no responsibility if i so choose.

raul valdez jr said at December 20, 2008 6:50 AM:

my friend's parents kicked her out and treat her other siblings like kings i wont tell you there names cause that aint for me to do. But the fact is that my friend is sick all the time and cant even hardly afford a doctor, while her brother is smoking 20 dollar cigars and her sister is living it up off mommy and daddy, and when she asks mommy why mommy replies cause you were a mistake thats messed up man and if you all let this continue to happen to people if you see poeple being abused and you see people being hurt and dont do something then your part of the damn problem not the sollution and one day when your in trouble dont expect to be helped and it will happen......oh believe me it will.

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