DNA’s Dirty Little Secrets

The way things are going in today’s world, I predict that it won’t be long before life insurance companies require DNA testing on all applicants.  While the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 prohibits health insurance companies from penalizing people with high-risk genetic markers, life insurance companies can do as they please.


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know at-home DNA kits have become the latest trend.  In fact, DNA kits were one of Amazon’s top five selling products on Black Friday in 2017.  One of the giants in the business, AncestryDNA, reportedly sold 1.5 million tests the weekend after Thanksgiving.  That’s a lot of kits!


Companies like AncestryDNA are popping up overnight.  The ever-growing list includes companies like 23andMe, My Heritage DNA, GPS Origins, LivingDNA, VitaGene— just to name a few.  According to Ancestry.com, between January and April, 2017, they genotypyed 1 million people, and their database is 6 million strong and growing. Some companies also permit you to upload raw genealogical data to their database so you can see if you have any matches without taking a test again.


What does this mean?  It means that for $79, a vial of spit and some fancy lab work, you can match with long lost and previously unknown family members.


There is no longer any way to ensure one of anonymity.  That’s something we all have to deal with.  But sperm and egg donors, take notice— this is especially relevant for you.  Because no matter what the banks might tell you, the truth is: You can be found.  So do the right thing and choose to be a willing-to-be-known donor.


For those unfamiliar with the world of Gamete donation, there are basically two categories—donors who wish to remain anonymous, and those who are “willing to be known.”  Check the latter box on your donor intake form and you agree to let the sperm or egg bank share your contact info with any offspring—once they turn 18—who would like to get in touch.  There’s no financial obligation, just an understanding that you’ll be willing to field a phone call or two.  And then you and this young adult, born thanks to you, can take it from there.  If you want to pursue a relationship, and get to know each other better, terrific.  If not, at least the child was able to gain some sense of closure.


While you’re at it, in addition to checking the “willing-to-be-known” box, why not also sign up for the Donor Sibling Registry the day you get your donor number?  You’ll be changing the life of the children created from your donation and it will enhance your life in ways you cannot measure.


And a note to all the parents of donor-conceived children who either talk themselves into believing it’s better the children never know, or flat out refuse to reveal the truth to their children for fear they won’t love you enough: High school science classes are teaching children scientific information related to DNA and many schools are permitting children to test their own genetic makeup.


Your secret is not safe anymore.


DNA = the death of anonymity


The death of family secrets, too.  And it’s about time.




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