Rob Hunter: Man searching for sperm donor dad

Man searching for sperm donor dad
Robert Hunter believes he has a right to know who his biological father is, but the protocol at the fertility clinic protects the privacy of donors
(Jun 26/09. London Free Press)

Donor 188, where are you? It's a question Rob Hunter has been pushing to answer for more than year, a chance to connect with his biological father. "It would make me feel more alive to know where I come from," the Waterloo man said yesterday.

But Hunter has hit a brick wall in his quest for information on the man who donated sperm for his conception at the University Hospital fertility clinic in London 24 years ago. It took the clinic from April to August last year to provide him with the sparse information that the sperm donor was No. 188, he said. "The fact it took four or five months to give me three digits is a little ridiculous."

This week, after dozens of phone calls, the fertility clinic provided more details. The sperm donor was six feet tall, 180 pounds, with brown eyes, had a history of hypertension on the father's side, and was between 20 and 25 years old. The clinic has said that's all Hunter will get, citing patient confidentiality and the original agreement with the donor to protect his identity. "We are bound by the provincial privacy legislation, and because of that we cannot disclose any identifying information about a patient. The donor was considered a patient at the time because we received health information from that individual and we received a sperm sample," said Laurie Gould, vice-president of the women's and children's program at the London Health Sciences Centre.

But Hunter wants more than what he's received. "I want to know about him, I want some sort of relationship."

Knowing his biological father might also answer some of the puzzles in his life, such as the entrepreneurial drive that didn't come from his mother or the environment in which he was raised. "My mother is a very smart woman, but very risk-adverse. She would never go out on her own and start a business. I, on the other hand, have never had a 9 to 5 job. I started a business in high school, rented houses in university and went straight into business after. It is nice to fantasize that my donor is a Richard Ivey School of Business graduate, as well. Maybe he is." Hunter would also like to connect with siblings, others that were conceived from the same donor.

When the fertility program was established to help families have children, Hunter thinks they forgot about the kids they were producing. "It is as if you were a product that was purchased to make your parents' lives complete and make your parents happy. It was just a commercial product. But I am not that, and anyone who was born from that procedure is not like that."

He also objects to the constant reference by health officials to his biological father as "the donor," stripping away all humanity. "It's not like you just donated blood. You gave life, you are a father, maybe not with all the emotional connotations, but in the biblical and dictionary sense you are family."

Despite his failure so far to find his biological father, Hunter said he's confident it'll happen. He's signed up for a website that uses DNA information to track family trees. One person conceived by a sperm donation has already found the donor through the site. "As soon as someone signs up for that site who is 5 generations out from me, I will probably have a surname to go by."

He's also optimistic laws will change, as they have for adoption, to give donor-conceived children the right to information. A class-action lawsuit has been launched in British Columbia that could also force the change, he
said. [See ]

Hunter found out by accident from his grandmother two years ago that his father wasn't his biological father. That caused some tension between him and his mother. Hunter felt he'd been misled. His mother thought she was doing the right thing by not telling him of his origin. "We've done really well, I love my mother, We have a great relationship now," he said. Although they've been able to patch things up, Hunter strongly advises other parents to disclose the information to their children.

Dr. Valter Feyles, medical director of LHSC's [London Health Sciences Centre] fertility program, said parents are now advised they can tell their children and are counselled on how to do it. "Things have evolved."

Hunter said he's been criticized by people who view his search as an attempt to replace the father who raised him. "That's not the case and it never would be," he said. He's also been taken aback by the strong reaction of friends. "They've asked, why are you looking, why bother? They tell me, you have a loving mother and a loving father and you should just be happy with who you are. But at the end of the day, I am a human being and it is our nature to try to understand how things got to be the way they are," he said.

Hunter has set up an e-mail where people can contact him --