Author Topic: Memetic vs Genetic parenthood  (Read 494 times)

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Offline Fiji

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Memetic vs Genetic parenthood
« on: January 02, 2013, 03:23:57 AM »
In the low countries there's a bit of a discussion ongoing about sperm donations.
At the core is the distinction between genetic offspring versus memetic offspring. But let me get the preamble out of the way first.
In the Netherlands, they're landing firmly on the side of genes trump everything. There a man remains responsible in every way for the children produced with his sperm. And men are paying child support for children they've never even known to exist.
In Belgium, the debate is still ongoing, but for the time being, sperm donations are still anonymous.

What IS a memetic child? It's the child whom you consider to be your offspring and who considers you their parent. And as silly as this might sound this is not unknown in law. A child born to a married couple is by default considered the natural offspring of both parents, even if the father is in doubt (or even where the father is KNOW to be a 'third party'). The husband still has to go through legal preceedings to stop the state from considering the child his. In adoptions too, a state will consider a child that is clearly not genetic offspring as the actual offspring of a couple.
So, what about sperm (or egg cell for that matter) donations? Who's right here? Belgium or the Netherlands?
Personally, I think the Dutch have it wrong. There's no mental connection between a child conceived via donated sperm and the originator of that sperm. Why force the man to pay for that child? And, yes, they get visitation rights ... for a child that is a complete stranger for them.
And yes, I know children get an identity sledgehammer to the face when they find out that dad is not dad. But ... why? Why is the genetic stressed so much over the memetic. OK, I get that our genes themselves "want" us to feel that way. It's their reason for existing. But we knowingly go against our genes every single day in other ways. So why not in the case of parenthood?
Should laws consider memetic parenthood on equal footing to genetic?
Should we, as a society, do so?
And if so, what cans of worms would we be opening? "You see, your honour, Random Celebrity Millionaire has always been like a father to me, even though I've never met him, so I should get part of his estate."
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Offline William

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Re: Memetic vs Genetic parenthood
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2013, 04:13:47 AM »
Great topic :)

In the Netherlands, they're landing firmly on the side of genes trump everything. There a man remains responsible in every way for the children produced with his sperm. And men are paying child support for children they've never even known to exist.

I don't see a major problem with this if the courts have latitude to alter the outcome when a valid defence is presented by the man e.g. "she asked me to provide sperm only" (say a lesbian or woman married to an infertile man).

An area I might have a problem with is where the bloke is never told anything until years down the track - then ambushed.  I certainly don't think he should escape all liability but some degree of consideration should be given to the fact that he had no input to the decision to go ahead and keep the child.  It should count for something if he was deliberately kept in the dark when an abortion was still feasible, and even later when he still had an opportunity to plan adequate support. 

Obviously circumstances would vary - blokes who know they've impregnated a woman and deliberately run away should get no mercy.
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Offline Fiji

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Re: Memetic vs Genetic parenthood
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2013, 04:33:13 AM »
Dutch law covers ALL sperm donations. You donate to a sperm bank. Someone you don't even know exists, uses your sperm (either at random or because she specifically selects you) to impregnate herself and X years later, demands child support.
There's one loophole, and that's that foreigners can't be forced to give up their personal details when donating. As a result, Dutch sperm bank only still have Belgian and German sperm, the origines of which are dubious at best.
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Offline Bagheera

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Re: Memetic vs Genetic parenthood
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2013, 05:39:49 AM »
Interesting.

I'm divorced. My ex-wife and i came to an agreement on spousal support easily. I was married to to my ex for 11 years, during which time I raised her two daughters, and I feel that they are my children, even though I didn't donate any genetic material.

So I do feel that under certain conditions, mimetic parenting should trump genetic. But unless the genetic parent chooses to relinquish their rights (or are stripped of them, which should be an option), under most cases it should be genetic > mimetic.

Online wheels5894

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Re: Memetic vs Genetic parenthood
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2013, 01:35:17 PM »
Dutch law covers ALL sperm donations. You donate to a sperm bank. Someone you don't even know exists, uses your sperm (either at random or because she specifically selects you) to impregnate herself and X years later, demands child support.
There's one loophole, and that's that foreigners can't be forced to give up their personal details when donating. As a result, Dutch sperm bank only still have Belgian and German sperm, the origines of which are dubious at best.

Doesn't that practice reduce the donation rate a lot? I mean, who would donate not knowing what it will cost years down the line? In the UK, children have the right to contact the donor but have no other rights in his regard.

It seems fair that those who want the child and thus those who ask for treatment by donor sperm are the ones who are responsible. The donor has done them a favour by providing the sperm and should not be saddled with any costs at all. In time, if the rules aren't changed will donor sperm have to come from other countries and how would the law deal with donors who have no connection with your country other then being s sperm donor?
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Offline wright

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Re: Memetic vs Genetic parenthood
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2013, 01:41:50 PM »
Dutch law covers ALL sperm donations. You donate to a sperm bank. Someone you don't even know exists, uses your sperm (either at random or because she specifically selects you) to impregnate herself and X years later, demands child support.
There's one loophole, and that's that foreigners can't be forced to give up their personal details when donating. As a result, Dutch sperm bank only still have Belgian and German sperm, the origines of which are dubious at best.

Yeah, that sure isn't much incentive for Dutch men to donate. Potentially, a single donor could father an enormous number of children that he'd be responsible for. The current law strikes me as pretty inequitable; surely there are efforts being made to reform it?

My own nephew was conceived via a sperm bank. And my brother in-law (his memetic dad) was an adopted child. When my in-law married my sister, he was already a grandfather from a previous marriage and in his mid-60s; he is nonetheless very committed to my sister and a loving father to my nephew.

I'm not sure what (if any) rights the genetic father of my nephew might have; such things vary quite a bit in the US from state to state. Certainly he has no financial obligation.
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Offline Fiji

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Re: Memetic vs Genetic parenthood
« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2013, 01:51:44 AM »
Dutch law covers ALL sperm donations. You donate to a sperm bank. Someone you don't even know exists, uses your sperm (either at random or because she specifically selects you) to impregnate herself and X years later, demands child support.
There's one loophole, and that's that foreigners can't be forced to give up their personal details when donating. As a result, Dutch sperm bank only still have Belgian and German sperm, the origines of which are dubious at best.

Doesn't that practice reduce the donation rate a lot? I mean, who would donate not knowing what it will cost years down the line? In the UK, children have the right to contact the donor but have no other rights in his regard.

It seems fair that those who want the child and thus those who ask for treatment by donor sperm are the ones who are responsible. The donor has done them a favour by providing the sperm and should not be saddled with any costs at all. In time, if the rules aren't changed will donor sperm have to come from other countries and how would the law deal with donors who have no connection with your country other then being s sperm donor?

I answer that in the quoted part :) (see bolded part)

In Belgium, the children can request contact with the donor. The sperm bank/hospital passes on the request and the donor has the ultimate say in the matter.
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Offline Fiji

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Re: Memetic vs Genetic parenthood
« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2013, 02:02:02 AM »
Yeah, that sure isn't much incentive for Dutch men to donate. Potentially, a single donor could father an enormous number of children that he'd be responsible for. The current law strikes me as pretty inequitable; surely there are efforts being made to reform it?

Actually ... no. Not entirely sure why. I suppose because it doesn't appear on most people's radar. How many are touched by this issue? One in 100000? I suppose it falls in the "don't know don't care" category.
Actually there's some movement in Belgium to go over to the Dutch way. Hasn't gathered much momentum ... yet. I'm keeping an eye on them.

My own nephew was conceived via a sperm bank. And my brother in-law (his memetic dad) was an adopted child. When my in-law married my sister, he was already a grandfather from a previous marriage and in his mid-60s; he is nonetheless very committed to my sister and a loving father to my nephew.

I'm not sure what (if any) rights the genetic father of my nephew might have; such things vary quite a bit in the US from state to state. Certainly he has no financial obligation.

See? That's what I'm talking about. Your brother in-law, his son and his dad ... that's three generations that everyone will instantly recognise as ... yep, they're family alright. But they're not genetic family. Does that take away any of the value of their relationships? ... At all?
A clear example of how the memetic can trump the genetic.
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Offline wright

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Re: Memetic vs Genetic parenthood
« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2013, 01:00:23 PM »
Yeah, that sure isn't much incentive for Dutch men to donate. Potentially, a single donor could father an enormous number of children that he'd be responsible for. The current law strikes me as pretty inequitable; surely there are efforts being made to reform it?

Actually ... no. Not entirely sure why. I suppose because it doesn't appear on most people's radar. How many are touched by this issue? One in 100000? I suppose it falls in the "don't know don't care" category.
Actually there's some movement in Belgium to go over to the Dutch way. Hasn't gathered much momentum ... yet. I'm keeping an eye on them.

How very odd. I guess I can see the "don't know don't care" angle, but you'd think the Mens Rights Activists (MRAs) would be all over that. And for once they'd have a point, unlike the venomous misogyny they usually espouse.


See? That's what I'm talking about. Your brother in-law, his son and his dad ... that's three generations that everyone will instantly recognise as ... yep, they're family alright. But they're not genetic family. Does that take away any of the value of their relationships? ... At all?
A clear example of how the memetic can trump the genetic.

You're right of course. It had not occurred to me how well my immediate family fit this topic until I started my first reply. I never met my bro in-law's adoptive father, but I did get to know his adoptive mother for the last few years of her life. His adoptive sister too; she's still kicking and stays in touch. From watching their interactions, it's clear they were a loving and close family.
Live a good life... If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid.
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