In-Vitro Fallout: Donor IVF Teen Says “I Wish I Had Never Been Born”

Bioethics   |   Rebecca Taylor   |   Jun 27, 2014   |   2:22PM   |   London, England

This story is so heartbreaking and so indicative of the complicated ethical web the fertility industry has spun. Gracie Crane is a UK teenage girl full of angst, but not the kind that troubles most teenagers. She was adopted as a “leftover” IVF embryo. Gracie keenly feels the loss of her genetic roots, but the law in the UK prevents her from ever knowing who her biological parents are. The pain is so acute, some days she says she wishes she were never born.

The UK’s Daily Mail has her story:

donorivfGracie, who is mixed race, was one of the first children in Britain conceived from a donor embryo, which means she has no genetic link to either of her parents.

As she was born in 1998 — seven years before amendments were made to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act allowing children born through donor conception to trace their genetic parents — she has no right to find out who her biological parents are. Or even whether there are any hereditary conditions which may affect her in the future.

Every year 2,000 people opt for egg, sperm or embryo donation in Britain — approximately 44,000 babies have been born this way over the past 20 years.

Having reached 16, and with the support of her clearly devoted parents, Gracie is speaking out because she wants anyone contemplating such a decision to understand just how difficult her life has been, despite being raised by a couple who adore her.

‘I would like to be a mother one day so I can finally have someone I’m genetically related to, but if I can’t have children naturally I would never have one through donor conception,’ says Gracie. ‘I wouldn’t put anybody else through what I’ve  been through.

‘Knowing that the two people I love most don’t look like me and that I am not biologically related to them has been really tough.

‘There are times I’ve wished I’d never been born — as much as I love my parents, it’s just so sad not knowing who I am and where I came from.’

So even though Gracie was rescued from the deep freeze of an IVF clinic and raised by loving parents, she still feels marginalized.  We need to listen to what Gracie is telling us. We all, on some level, desire to know and be loved by those that created us, even if we are one of the unwanted “leftovers.”

That is the untenable situation that mass-production of human beings inherent in the IVF process has spawned. We have created hundreds of thousands of lives that, even when saved from an icy grave, still want to know where they came from and can feel terrible pain if that is denied them.

So what to do with all the “left-overs”? That is the untenable part. Even Gracie doesn’t know:

‘Anyone considering starting a life which has already been started somewhere else shouldn’t just think about their desire to have a baby and take the fastest option,’ she says.

‘They should be as selfless as possible and think about how the child will feel growing up — speak to people like me and my parents.

‘If people are going to have a donor-conceived child, they need to match up the donors to the parents.

‘But then embryos that can’t be matched will be thrown away, and that’s not right either,’ she adds, her huge brown eyes welling up again.

The reality is that we should have never made the “leftovers” to begin with. A couple of years ago the UK Embryo Authority released numbers that are shocking. From every one child born using IVF, as many as 30 embryos are created. We need to stop the mass production of human embryos just to boost success rates.

Gracie’s story is not just about the industrial mass manufacturing of human embryos. Her ordeal speaks directly to the use of donor eggs or sperm. Children conceived with donor gametes are purposely created to be denied half of their story and, like Gracie, they can keenly feel the loss of half of their identity.

Alana S. Newman, founder of and a donor-conceived adult, is bravely standing up for the rights of those intentionally denied what she believes is a fundamental right: the right to a relationship with one’s biological parents. She writes:

The facts of my conception are that my father was paid to abandon me. There is no dignity in that. I suffered from debilitating identity issues, mistrust of the opposite sex, hatred and condemnation of the opposite sex, feelings of objectification – like I only exist as a play – toy for others, and feeling like a science experiment.

If people can take away something so precious as a mother or father and make us feel like we should be grateful for the loss, what else can people take away from us? How do you expect the next generation to fight for things like freedom, democracy, clean air, clean water, when something as precious and basic as your mother or father is stolen from you? Removed by the state… Removed by a fertility industry that forces you into existence and then doesn’t return your calls when you grow up and start banging on their doors asking for records… Removed by a commissioning parent, often your other biological parent who vowed to protect and provide for you, but only on the contingency that you show gratitude for your life and don’t ask questions about the other missing parent….

It is truly time to start listening to voices of those like Gracie and Alana. The children of the wild west fertility industry are telling us that they aren’t just fine. The worst thing we can do is to tell them to “shut-up and be grateful for your life.” Instead we have to acknowledge their pain and reign in the “anything goes” attitude toward reproduction that prevails in our society.

The children are counting on us.