The Truth Behind The Overused Donor Hype

When 17-year-old Breeanna set out to find the man who donated sperm and made it possible for her mother to have her, she stumbled upon something truly surprising: 15 half-siblings. Is the story in MTV's Generation Cryo a common occurrence or a rare mishap?

Generation Cryo

When Generation Cryo premiered last month, it caused quite the stir. In the process of trying to meet her father (sperm donor #1096), 17-year-old Breeanna found out she had 15 half-brothers and sisters whose parents were all given sperm from the same donor. Add to that the crazy story of the recent Vince Vaughn movie, Delivery Man, in which a man finds out his donated sperm was used to father 533 children and suddenly there's tons of hype about the overuse of donations and whether that's common practice. The truth is, though, that it's mostly just hype.

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"It is unlikely one donor can donate to one hundred women," says Dr. Jane Frederick of California's HRC Fertility. "There are strict guidelines that registered clinics follow with a limit on the number of offspring each donor can produce in that community."

According to Frederick, those guidelines involve a lot of math and strict federal monitoring. Calculations involving the amount of pregnancies a donor has already produced are used to determine how many more times a company should continue to sell donations from one person. Moreover, the FDA and individual states have rules in place to avoid the spread of disease from donor to user.

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In other words, Breeanna's case is a very rare circumstance and the case in Delivery Man is even moreso. To a certain extent, MTV is creating a bit of bad press for the use of insemination instead of adoption. It's suggesting that the uniqueness of a child conceived by donation may, in fact, be half factory-made, with a dozen or more half-copies of your child running around the world. That couldn't be further from the truth, though. Just as shows like Find My Family and Who's Your Daddy? showcase the often heartbreaking truth of adoption, in the end one is just as useful as the other. And fertility specialists like Frederick aren't worried about the ill-effects a show like Generation Cryo could have on business.

"The recent movies regarding sperm donation may allow women to see the opportunities available to them," Frederick told us. "I envision a surge in interest in this technique as well as children wanting to find their half siblings through donor registries."

As for Breeanna, her story began last month when, in an effort to find donor #1096 on the Donor Sibling Registry, she stumbled upon more than a dozen half-siblings. In the finale tonight, she decides whether to pursue a relationship with her recently discovered father or to move on with her life without knowing him. Surprisingly enough, her mother is 100 percent onboard with Breeanna getting to know her father. After all, he was instrumental in her creation.

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Is the idea of one donor's contributions being used to father so many children really so bad after all? Perhaps it's most daunting for the donor, should he find out and have to decide whether to forge a relationship with (possible) multiple children. In Breeanna's instance, though, it seems to have worked out for the best. She's gained a larger circle of family, even though not all of her half-siblings care about bringing another possible father-figure into their lives.

While Generation Cryo could be seen as bad press, it's entirely possible it will also do some good by exposing other donor-produced children to the Donor Sibling Registry and give them the chance to expand their family, as well as (possibly) have vital health and personality questions answered by their "father." What do you think? Was Generation Cryo an interesting story or something more?

Image courtesy of MTV


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Comments on "Is MTV's Generation Cryo an alarmist story?"

marilynn January 04, 2014 | 4:23 PM

Gina you said they treat him like an ATM not a dad...He's not the Dad! He's not the one who should be taking care of someone else's kid! Of course the kid is going to want to meet their own father who made them. Their step father would be there anyway he is married to their mother.

marilynn January 04, 2014 | 2:53 PM

August how can you say that he did not give up his child? People who don't want to have any children on this earth, don't donate their genes for reproductive purposes. The number 1 thing you have to be willing to do as a sperm donor is give up some of your kids - not raise all the kids you make yourself. If your not willing to abandon some of your kids, then they won't want you to donate your sperm. Like if you said "oh I want to raise all the kids I reproduce to create, don't trust anyone else to take care of my kids but me" then they won't pay you for your sperm. If all he did was donate sperm, there would be no kid looking for him. He had to agree in writing to not only make kids but to abandon them as well. Come on use your head. Without his agreement to reproduce and abandon his kids, nobody would want his sperm. Of course he's a father. Calling a sperm donor with offspring 'just a sperm donor' is like calling a mistress 'just a secretary'; Secretary is what she was before she had with her married boss and sperm donor is what he was before his kids were born.

marilynn January 04, 2014 | 2:40 PM

When a person does not go to court to gain parental title and authority over someone else's offspring it's black market adoption. Being named parent on the original birth record of a person who is not your offspring is the hallmark of black market adoption. The whole "sperm donation" thing is nothing more than clever wordsmithing, a ruse for the industrialization of black market adopting millions of people whose human rights have been compromised for people who were unwilling to go to court and adopt other people's offspring in an ethical and above board on the record way. This girl and all donor offspring should be furious at having been treated as objects and denied protection from being sold out of their families and being denied equal rights and equal protection under the law. Every one of us has the right to access the vital records and identifying information about the people we are related to. Some people have those rights interfered with when a member of their family is not named as a parent on their own offspring's birth records. The flow of information stops and the rights of an entire family are interfered with. It's not just the rights of donor offspring that are compromised by not knowing who their parents and siblings are - its the rights of every person related to them to know who they are as well that are undermined. Donor offspring absolutely have every right to know the identity of their biological parents and all their bio relatives because all citizens have that right to access vital records their parents interfered with that right and if their step parent is named as a parent on their birth record, they also interfered with that right and society that allows that interference is at fault as well for not treating donor offspring as equal to every other person born. Its horrid. Of course she has a right to contact her own damn father. So what if he was promised anonymity in exchange to make a baby he never should have believed he would not have to be accountable for his own reproductive behavior. They could have promised him he could drive over the speed limit and run red lights too if he would just make a baby. At some point we'd have to say sorry, it was a dumb thing to promise because people are getting hurt by not making you follow the rules so too bad we are breaking our promise cause it hurts other people.

mmm January 01, 2014 | 4:16 AM

All of this effort and you never see the donor at the end...If you donate sperm you have to expect that you may get a call from your curious bio children one day...I do understand why they wanted to know there biological other half- but for the viewer not even to see his face it is a bummer. I must say though all his bio kids did turn out to be all around good kids.

Dee December 24, 2013 | 2:39 PM

August, Leave him alone if that's what he asks. He hasn't.

Dea December 24, 2013 | 2:37 PM

Hi, I just wanted to say I completely understand Bree and her siblings. You can say "Oh this is how I'd react." I guarentee you won't! It's easy when you don't know. I'm not a cryo child. But my Dad is not my biological father. I always knew and had asked more than once. My mother isn't exactly a nice person. She slept with someone she had known since she ws a teen and got pregnant with me. She never said it out loud. My "Dad" did find out. He went to her and all he asked if she was pregnant. She hung her head and he knew. Their marriage never worked. He cheated and by then was living with someone else. Wen they fought he went to my mother and stayed until they fought. I spoke to my best friend literally 1 week before I as told and said I wouldn't be surprised, nor would I react, etc.... This other woman told my sister when I was 7. When my mother brought me home she disappeared every day. She came home at night only and left my siblings and I with my sister, once she told my sis. My sis called my Dad to my mothers and asked if it was true. My mother said nothing. My Dad didin't say yes or no. He said he was my Dad the day I was born and would be till the day I died. Years later at a school reunion my sis realized she knew my bio sis from my "Father" finally I asked a few years later and she told me. I did everything I said I would never do, my Dad is my Dad and always will be. But there I was ripped into 2 pieces. 1 side from my mother and the 2nd from my Father. What traits did I get? What did he look like? What geneology did I get? And on. It took 10 years until I found him. Now for the very first time I have an Uncle who loves me unconditionally. I thought I had that but I was wrong. I'm still learning and still have questions. Just after I was born they moved from the east to the west coast. Funny thi fever tone I told said they already knew even tho no one said a word. Bree, and any others, if you'd like to contact me. Please do. Ask me any questions you want. I know how hard it is to try talking to someone who hasn't gone thro anything like this. They try to understand and try to be there but it's hard. Unless you live this, as much as you try, you can't understand. I understand and I'm here always! Dee

Carisa December 24, 2013 | 11:34 AM

August, maybe you should watch the show before commenting, then you would know she emails him often and wants to know them all, also, it's not there fault someone decided to give part of them to create life, if you do have the pleasure of knowing who you are then good for you but not everyone is able and need to know for health reason's or just to know this is who I am. As any parent you know sooner or later your child is going to want to know who there biological family is, It's human nature to wanna know who you look like and everyone should have that right to know. These kids have been thre a lot with cousins and friends because they weren't blood related to the fathers, or some had siblings that dad was in the home and they made it a point to let them know that was real real dad, so don't be selfish and think of others feelings. Think of both sides and there parts were all supportive and wanted to meet him and tell him Thank You! I loved the show and hope to if she ever actually meets her and the rest that are in contact with him and to see how much they have in common. And GIna, you just seem a little bitter, there kids and they don,t look like there using there dad, they look like smart and we'll behaved kids, there 17 and did nothing but visit with his sister and try to support his family. He has the right to say who am I, his dad knows where he came from and who his blood related family is, why is it wrong from him..he gave his dad nothing but respect and reassured him, he will always be there dad and hugged and kissed him and didn't hide nothing from could've went way different then him thinking of his dad every step of the way.

Gina December 24, 2013 | 10:57 AM

This show gives me anxiety. I watched in hopes Bree gets smacked down. I dislike that little girl immensely. She wants this because she never had a father. The people I feel sorry for or the men. I can bet it took a ton of begging and pleading on the women's part to convince husbands to do this - making promises about family ect. Only now to turn around and find they are the 3rd wheel. I feel sorriest for Eric - to have a wife like Terri must be a heavy burden. It's obvious in that relationship he gives and she takes. He tells her flat out he is hurt and she could care less and tells him her feelings count more. I would love to see him pack his bags and leave. I feel so bad for him I've cried. His family just blows him off. He put money into them, time into them, love into them and they only want this man who was paid to puge in a cup…I feel sick for him. He will never leave though if he has put up with Terri this long he will stay till he dies, as if he lives to be mistreated. Jonah is just like his mom. I thought Hilit would stand strong for him but she caved too. If I were a man I would never allow a sperm donor to make my kids - because this is what happens, your wife and kids turn on you and push you aside. I'm full of anger towards Bree and the way these kids are treating the men who raised them - as if they don't matter and they refuse to see how much it hurts them. I can't watch anymore - I cry every time I see a scene with Eric and his family, they treat him as an ATM not a dad.

Jane B December 24, 2013 | 6:21 AM

As anyone who follows the fertility industry in the US knows, the idea of a donor having upwards of 100 children is not a rare or unlikely or crazy or outlier occurrence. it is commonplace. A representative from xytex - one of the biggest in the US - told me a few years ago that 80 plus children from one donor was common. There is no limit in the US on how many children a donor can produce (in the UK the limit is ten families - which could mean as many as 25 children per donor). US banks used to calculate by number in a geographical area, but that's all a bit pointless now given the fluidity and mobility of populations within the US. Some banks that operate in the US - e.g. the scandanavian banks - not only export unlimited times to the US, but also export to any other country that asks following only the country limit within that country. In those cases the offspring could easily number well over a hundred.

Deirdre December 24, 2013 | 2:25 AM

That's a fair point, August. I was actually thinking of that as I wrote this. I wish I'd asked if they worried the story would discourage men from donating if they think that means they can be sought out later. Though, I don't think that's something that's made available unless he wanted it to be.

August December 23, 2013 | 10:49 PM

I think they should leave this poor guy alone. He donated sperm, he did not give up a child he is now considering a relationship with. He did not lose this child through divorce or some other loss. It is unfair of this girl to search him out and attempt to force a relationship on him, and that is what she's doing. She is going to get hurt when she learns he now has his own family and wants nothing to do with a child conceived pretty much without him.

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