Are Sperm Donors Deadbeat Dads?


“I… think that donor conception is irresponsible. I sometimes compare it to ‘deadbeat dads’: men who abandon their wives and children and don’t provide for them. I think a sperm donor is a kind of deadbeat dad who creates children and then doesn’t care for them.”

So says David Velleman in a brief interview in The Irish Times, in which he is also asked about the non-identity problem, environmentalism, and duties to future generations.

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Jennifer Frey
7 years ago

Thanks for posting this. We are discussing this in PHIL 211 right now, and the conversations with my students have been amazing and often draw on media sources to supplement the philosophy we are reading.

I would not put things quite so bluntly, but its true that if you google around even just a little, you will find NPR and other news outlets discussing identity and individuality issues that some donor conceived persons face. You will also find some chilling testimonials from donor conceived persons who do feel abandoned by their biological fathers (though you will also find testimonials of people who feel just fine about it). And once you think about it, none of this is all that surprising. Why should we be surprised to learn that human beings think a large part of who they are is bound up with where they came from and WHO they came from, and that they quite reasonably seek a connection with these sources? And why should we be surprised to learn that when these persons either can’t find that source, or are actively prevented from finding it, they feel a genuine loss? Or, that if and when they do find it, the biological parent is utterly uninterested in its offspring, there is genuine loss, confusion and pain? Whatever we want to say about making human beings from commodified genetic materials at the end of the day, it would be a mistake to refuse to listen to these voices, or to understand their experiences.Report

Joe
Joe
7 years ago

And Velleman’s unending quest to chart the realm of the counterintuitive rolls on.Report

David Velleman
David Velleman
Reply to  Joe
2 years ago

Counterintuitive theses are the only ones that are worth exploring philosophically, because all the others can be easily handled by … intuition.Report

David Boonin
David Boonin
7 years ago

Rivka Weinberg [aka “the other Weinberg”] defends roughly this position (as I recall) in “The Moral Complexity of Sperm Donation,” Bioethics 2008 22: 166-178.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
2 years ago

Don’t these same issues arise anytime a parent gives a kid up for adoption and doesn’t intend to offer further financial support?Report