"hyper-fecund" donor doctor fathered 100 children
A story published in this week's Sunday Times alleges that a London doctor
fathered more than 100 children following artificial insemination (AI). It is
said that the late Derek Richter, a neuropsychologist, donated sperm on many
occasions between 1945 and 1951, for use by Mary Barton, a doctor who
'pioneered' the use of artificial insemination in the 1930s.
Barton revealed what she was doing via an article in the British Medical
Journal in 1945 but was met with many unfavourable responses, both from the
medical establishment and the public.
The information has now come to light because Richter's daughter wrote an
article for a newsletter published by the Donor Conception Network (DCN). She
said that 'after three years he was one of their champion donors. He had
fathered his first hundred... his samples were hyper-fecund'. The DCN believe
that this might not be an isolated case, and that other academics may have
secretly donated sperm in the early days of AI.
Henry Rollin, a friend of Richter, remembered him sending off samples. He
said 'he knew he was a superior person intellectually speaking, and I am
pretty certain that proliferating his genes was his basic reason for donating
Richter's daughter, 63, a writer who lives in the Midlands, is one of three legitimate children that he sired. She admits that she is curious to know about her extraordinary number of unidentified half-brothers and sisters and believes her family may have already encountered two of them.
"One of them was a young researcher working in a laboratory with my husband, who is a geneticist, and the other was a student with my sister at Oxford," she said. "You cannot possibly ask because most people would not know they had been conceived in this way."
Henry Rollin, a retired psychiatrist from Surrey who was a colleague of Richter, recalled his friend regularly rushing to the post to dispatch his latest sperm sample.
Barton, who has since also died, pioneered donor sperm use from 1939 onwards, having studied the use of artificial insemination in farm animals. Richter knew her socially and donated sperm between 1945 and 1951, which means that his unwitting offspring are now all aged 50 to 56.
Barton first revealed details of the treatment to a horrified medical establishment via an article in the British Medical Journal in 1945. The journal subsequently published a series of outraged letters accusing her of treating people like cattle. "What type of individual can the donor be who hawks his seminal fluid round the countryside?" one of them asked.
About 2,000 children a year are now born from artificial insemination with sperm from anonymous donors. Those born before 1990 currently have no legal right to examine the medical records detailing their conception.
The DCN is demanding that doctors offering donor insemination be required to give greater consideration to the emotions of the children who result from the procedure.
"We want to move to a more open system whereby offspring can contact their donor parents if they want to," said Olivia Montuschi, a spokesman for the DCN.
"Like adoption, not knowing about origins causes a great deal of pain for some people."
Since 1990, when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act came into force regulating infertility treatment, the number of offspring has been limited to 10 per donor.
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