44 siblings and counting

A lack of regulation has created enormous genetic families.  Now they are searching for one other.

Kianni Arroyo clasps 8-year-old Sophia’s hands tightly as they spin around, giggling like mad. It’s late afternoon, and there are hot dogs on the grill, bubble wands on the lawn, balls flying through the air.lesbian moms

The midsummer reunion in a suburb west of the city looks like any other, but these family ties can’t be described with standard labels. Instead, Arroyo, a 21-year-old waitress from Orlando, is here to meet “DNA-in-laws,” various “sister-moms” and especially people like Sophia, a cherished ­“donor-sibling.”

Sophia and Arroyo were both conceived with sperm from Donor #2757, a bestseller. Over the years, Donor #2757 sired at least 29 girls and 16 boys, now ages 1 to 21, living in eight states and four countries. Arroyo is on a quest to meet them all, chronicling her journey on Instagram. She has to use an Excel spreadsheet to keep them all straight.

“We have a connection. It’s hard to explain, but it’s there,” said Arroyo, an only child who is both comforted and weirded-out by her ever-expanding family tree.

Thanks to mail-away DNA tests and a proliferation of online registries, people conceived with donated sperm and eggs are increasingly connecting with their genetic relatives, forming a growing community with complex relationships and unique concerns about the U.S. fertility industry. Like Arroyo, many have discovered dozens of donor siblings, with one group approaching 200 members — enormous genetic families without precedent in modern society.

Because most donations are anonymous, the resulting children often find it almost impossible to obtain crucial information. Medical journals have documented cases in which clusters of offspring have found each other while seeking treatment for the same rare genetic disease. The news is full of nightmarish headlines about sperm donors who falsified their educational backgrounds, hid illnesses or turned out to be someone other than expected — such as a fertility clinic doctor.

And while Britain, Norway, China and other countries have passed laws limiting the number of children conceived per donor, the United States relies solely on voluntary guidelines. That has raised fears that the offspring of prolific donors could meet and fall in love without knowing they were closely related, putting their children at risk of genetic disorders.

By Washington Post, September 12, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

Do IVF And Other Infertility Tech Lead To Health Risks For The Baby?

When patients come to Dr. Molly Quinn for infertility treatments like IVF, they usually aren’t too interested in hearing about the possible downsides, she says. They just want to get pregnant.

Still, she always discusses the risks of procedures such as IVF. For example, there’s an increased likelihood of twins or triplets — which increases the chances of medical complications for both moms and babies. And stimulating the ovaries to ripen extra eggs can, in a small number of cases, cause the ovaries to rupture.IVF

Quinn, an infertility specialist and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Los Angeles, now has a new hazard to consider. According to research published this month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, children conceived through certain infertility treatments may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

Parents shouldn’t panic, the study’s authors say: The findings are preliminary, and the study cohort was fairly small. Still, they say, it means that families who used infertility treatments like IVF should be particularly vigilant about screening for high blood pressure in their children and help them avoid other cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.

“Fertility clinics should really … counsel about potential risks for their kids,” says Dr. Urs Scherrer, a visiting professor at the University of Bern in Switzerland and a senior author of the study.

Scherrer and his colleagues followed the health of children conceived through assisted reproductive technology for more than a decade. ART is an umbrella term that covers a number of different types of procedures, including in vitro fertilization, in which sperm and eggs are mixed in a lab dish, and intracytoplasmic sperm injection, in which sperm are inserted directly into eggs. Today, roughly 2 percent of all births in the U.S are conceived via ART.

In 2012, the same team of scientists published a major paper showing that 65 healthy kids born with the help of ART were more likely than their peers to have early signs of problematic blood vessels. The current study, comparing 54 of those original children with 43 age- and sex-matched peers, shows those early irregularities — signs of “premature vascular aging”, the scientists say — persist into adolescence and young adulthood.

Kids in the study who were conceived via ART are now 16 years old, on average, but have blood vessels resembling those of middle-aged adults, the scientists found.

NPR.org, by Mara Gordon, September 19, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

They were gay and wanted a baby. She loved being pregnant. They made a deal.

Christina Fenn and her husband, Brian, have driven an hour and a half to this quaint coffee shop in Monroe, Conn. Fenn sips her morning latte, skittishly glancing out the window at the parking lot. “I’m nervous,” she says, grabbing her husband’s arm. “Nervous-excited, though.” He smiles back.

She’s wearing green, her lucky color. Green shirt and green jacket, green bracelets, green socks. She feels as if she needs all the luck she can get today.

“They’re here,” her husband says, standing to greet two men walking toward them.Hoylman

Bill Johnson and Kraig Wiedenfeld have been a couple for 18 years and married for four. Everyone embraces warmly.

They’re an unlikely foursome: two gay men from the Upper East Side of New York and a small-town husband and wife who met when they both were 20 at a Dunkin’ Donuts.

By lunchtime, if all goes as planned, Christina Fenn will be pregnant with Johnson and Wiedenfeld’s son. An embryo created from Wiedenfeld’s sperm and an egg from an anonymous donor will be thawed and transferred into Fenn’s uterus, and she will be considered “PUPO” — pregnant until proven otherwise.

“Let’s go have a baby!” says Wiedenfeld. They all smile nervously.

The couples drive in separate cars to CT Fertility, a clinic five minutes down the road.

This isn’t Fenn’s first time at the clinic. She has proudly carried three babies — including a set of twins — as a surrogate for two other same-sex couples. She heads to Exam Room 3, while Johnson and Wiedenfeld go to a waiting area until it’s time for the transfer.

“You have a beautiful embryo hatching,” says CT Fertility physician Melvin Thornton, sitting down with the dads-to-be.

by Sydney Page, Washington Post – September 8, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

Guardianship for Children – Priceless Peace of Mind

Creating a guardianship for Children may be the most important reason for creating an estate plan.  With a thoughtfully chosen guardian, parents can rest assured that their children will be ok if something were to happen.

A guardianship for children in a Last Will and Testament is the only way to ensure that your children will be with whom you choose in the event of a death of a parent.  To dispel a common misconception, naming someone as a godparent through a church ritual has no legal weight when a guardian is required after the death of a parent or parents.  I would argue that the exercise of choosing that person is good for the parents as it has them thinking about why someone may be a good choice as a guardian for their children, but that exercise is just that until the choice is declared in a properly executed Last Will and Testament.guardianship for children

To be crystal clear, only a child guardian designation made in a properly executed Last Will and Testament is a valid designation of a guardianship for children

Becoming a parent forces that person to think in the long-term.  Imagining your children’s lives without you is certainly not easy but imagining their lives without you and without any clear direction as to where they should live or who they should live with is far worse.

Hypothetically, if no guardianship for children is established in a properly executed Last Will and Testament, the court will look to see if there are any family members who would petition the court to take on that responsibility.  That person, while being a close family member, may not be the person that a parent would choose for their child.  Also, the court prioritizes the closest living blood relatives, so if you have not made your wishes known through a properly executed guardianship for children in a Will, then a more distant family member who may be the better choice would have an uphill battle in court.

Another fact that most parents do not realize is that when there is a guardianship for children properly established in your Last Will and Testament, the designated guardian still must petition the court to be made the legal guardian of the child.  This process is streamlined when the deceased parent has made a clear guardianship for children designation, but that designee must still follow the protocols of having the guardianship established in court.

singleIf no guardianship for children has been properly executed, then the closest living blood relatives must petition the court to be named legal guardian, creating an often time consuming and emotional journey for all involved, especially the children.

While this article focuses on how to properly execute a guardianship for children, I also want to remind readers of the different ways that parents can provide financially for their children if a parent, or parents, die.  Basic estate planning is essentialEstate planning with children in the mix offers new options, and challenges.

Remember also that you can name a guardianship for children even before they are born.  Carefully crafted Wills may refer to “future born children,” as well as defining children to include adopted children, children in utero, children you are in the process of adopting and children who are created through assisted reproductive technology. 

Now that you understand the process, the real work begins.  Being able to have these conversations among parents is crucial. Agreeing upon an appropriate guardianship for children may take time and effort, but it may be the most important decision you will ever make for your family.

 

Anthony M. Brown, Esq. September 7, 2018

 

Contact Time For Families

Contact Form
* indicates required field

Tom Daley on becoming a dad and why UK surrogacy laws need to change

Tom Daley is sitting on a sofa in a central London hotel suite with his husband, Dustin Lance Black, while their seven-week-old baby, Robbie Ray, snoozes peacefully beside them – and it’s clear the new fathers (both dressed in baby blue) are entirely besotted with their son.

“We don’t ever turn on a TV anymore, we just stare at the little one,” Tom Daley, 24, tells The Independent. “It’s been so crazy. It feels kind of surreal still, the fact that we have a…”

He stops mid-sentence to coo at baby Robbie, which I soon realise is to become a regular occurrence during our interview.surrogate lawyers, surrogate lawyer, surrogate attorney, legal surrogate, surrogate legal

“But he’s brought so much love and joy to the family,” Daley continues.

Born to a surrogate in June, Robbie is apparently a very well-behaved newborn. “He’s a great baby,” says Black, 44. “I think we got a starter baby, I think we got the best baby on the planet.”

“But we might be biased,” adds Daley.

The Olympic diver and his Oscar-winning screenwriter husband met in 2013, married in 2017 and revealed they were going to be fathers in 2018 – an announcement which wasn’t met entirely positively by the public.

“I think that’s why we want to help educate people because I think a lot of them were under the impression that the baby was going to be ripped from his mother’s arms,” says Daley. “People will have their opinions and that’s fine. All we want is what’s best for the little one.”

The couple had their son through surrogacy but admit they didn’t know a great deal about the options open to them as a same-sex couple beforehand. “It was an education, we had to learn,” says Black. 

By Rachel Hosie, theindependent.co.uk, August 22, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

Sudbury court awards woman ownership of embryo called ‘property’ in precedent-setting case

Woman, 48, was divorced from man and awarded embryo based on fertility clinic consent form.

A court in Sudbury, Ont., has awarded an embryo to a woman in a case involving her ex-husband, in what is being called a precedent-setting decision because the embryo has no biological connection to the couple.embryo

Two childhood friends decided to get married in 2009 to have and raise children together, but the man didn’t want his sperm used and the woman’s eggs weren’t suitable. So three years later, they purchased eggs and sperm from a business in the United States for $11,500 US, and two good embryos were created through in-vitro fertilization. 

In December 2012, the woman gave birth to a son. Eight days later, the marriage dissolved and both sides claimed ownership of the second embryo in the divorce.

The judge’s decision awarding the embryo to the woman, who is now 48, was released last week.

It hinged on a consent form from a fertility clinic in southern Ontario on which the couple indicated the “patient’s wishes” would be honoured in case of divorce. The form describes the woman receiving the embryo as “the patient.”

Erik White · CBC News ·

Click here to read the entire article.

As evidence supporting LGBTQ families mounts, legal hurdles loom

New studies say kids of gay parents are just as well-adjusted as those with a mom and dad. But Congress is moving to allow adoption agencies to bar LGBTQ families.

LGBTQ families made headlines twice this month, but for very different reasons.

Last week, a study found that from a mental health perspective, adult children with lesbian parents fared just as well as their peers with opposite-sex parents. This follows an Italian study released in May that found that children with same-sex parents were actually slightly better off psychologically than children with a mom and a dad.LGBTQ families

Earlier this month, however, Republican lawmakers dealt a blow to LGBTQ people seeking to become LGBTQ families. The House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment allowing foster care and adoption agencies that receive federal funding to refuse to work with same-sex couples on religious or moral grounds. Though the amendment has several steps to go before becoming federal law, 10 states already have a similar law in place.

The House amendment goes even further than current state-level laws. It would cut 15 percent of child welfare funding to states that explicitly prohibit agencies from excluding LGBTQ people.

Independent and private adoption agencies that do not receive federal funding are already allowed to deny LGBTQ people.

The studies of children with same-sex parents don’t surprise advocates of LGBTQ families. Zach Wahls, who was born to a lesbian couple through artificial insemination and famously defended same-sex parents to the Iowa Legislature in 2011, said it was exciting to have studies to back up his experience.

“In our current climate, we’re at risk of backsliding on this issue,” Wahls told NBC News. “We need to be ready to contest that, and now we can do it in a scientific way.”

Scientific as they may be, the studies are unlikely to move those who advocate for allowing agencies to exclude LGBTQ families, because the objections are faith-based and do not pertain only to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

by Avichai Scher NBCNews.com, 

Click here to read the entire article.

Lots of Successful Women Are Creating Frozen Eggs. But It May Not Be About Their Careers.

“Freeze Your Eggs, Free Your Career,” announced the headline of a Bloomberg Businessweek cover story in 2014. It was the year that Facebook and then Apple began offering egg freezing as a benefit toemployees. Hundreds of think pieces followed, debating the costs and benefits of using frozen eggs in an effort to “postponing procreation” in the name of professional advancement.

In the years since, many more women across the world have  usedfrozen eggs. Many are highly educated. But the decision may have very little to do with work, at least according to a new study. In interviews with 150 American and Israeli women who had undergone one cycle, careerplanning came up as the primary factor exactly two times.

Instead, most women focused on another reason: they still hadn’t found a man to build a family with.frozen eggs

“The stereotype that these ambitious career women are freezing their eggs for the purposes of their career — that’s really inaccurate at the present time,” said Marcia Inhorn, a medical anthropologist from Yale University, and one of the authors of the study, which was presented Monday at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology’s conference in Spain.

Most of these mid-to-late 30s women were already established in their careers by the time they got to the clinic, the study found.

“They weren’t freezing to advance; they were facing the overarching problem of partnership,” she said. This was the case, even among those who worked for companies that offered to pay for the procedure.

by Heather Murphy, New York Times – July 3, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

Blood Test Might Predict Pregnancy Due Date and Preterm Birth

The blood test is far from ready for use, but research is promising. If it works in bigger studies, it could help prevent deaths of babies born prematurely.

Scientists have developed an inexpensive blood test to predict a pregnant woman’s due date and possibly identify women who are at risk of giving birth prematurely.

The research, which is still preliminary and involved small numbers of women, was led by a prominent pioneer in the field of genetic blood testing, Stephen Quake at Stanford University, who said the test could eventually provide a low-cost method of gauging the gestational age of a developing fetus.pregnancy blood test

The test, which detects changes in RNA circulating in a pregnant woman’s blood, estimated due dates within two weeks in nearly half the cases, making it as accurate as the current, more expensive method, ultrasound, and more accurate than guesses based on a woman’s last menstrual period.

Using a similar analysis of RNA in blood from eight women who delivered prematurely, the researchers were able to correctly classify six of their pregnancies as preterm. If much larger studies achieve comparable results, the test could become a tool to help prevent unnecessary induction of labor or Cesarean deliveries, and could possibly help save babies would have died because they were born too early.

Premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death in the United States. And 15 million babies a year are born prematurely around the world.

“I think it’s really a very exciting study that suggests an approach that may have a lot of potential for predicting preterm delivery,” said Dr. Louis Muglia, director of the Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center at the University of Cincinnati. “It can certainly help you understand where the baby is in maturity,” he said, which could aid doctors in gauging when to deliver babies of women who go into unexpected early labor.

In the study, published Thursday in the journal Science, the team, which was co-led by Dr. Mads Melbye, who runs the Statens Serum Institute in Denmark, analyzed the blood of 31 Danish women taken every week throughout their pregnancies, which were all full-term. The researchers studied genes linked to the placenta, the maternal immune system and the fetal liver, and found nine of those genes produce RNA signals that change distinctly as pregnancy progresses.

“RNA is what’s happening in the cells at any given moment,” said Dr. Quake, who is also co-president of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, which funded the study, along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others. “We had this idea that we could make a molecular clock to see how these things change over time and it should allow you to measure gestational age and see where things are in pregnancy.”

by Pam Belluck, New York Times, June 7, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

First Czech same-sex couple recognized as parents

The Supreme Court accepted in early May the Californian judiciary’s decision and recognized a Czech gay couple as the parents of a recently born baby, which is the first case of a same-sex Czech couple to be given this legal right, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) wrote on Saturday.

A surrogate mother gave birth to the baby of the Czech gay couple in California a few months ago.

The donor’s egg was fertilised in vitro with the sperm of one of the future fathers. The Californian authorities then recognised both Czech men as the rightful parents of the newborn baby.Czech Republic

As the child has a U.S. birth certificate and passport, the gay couple turned to defence lawyer Katerina Menclova to help them gain Czech documents.

“I was told that if we want to arrange Czech documents for Karolina (the baby girl), we must turn to the Supreme Court that would recognise the verdict by the State of California, which declared both gay partners the child’s parents,” Menclova told MfD.

The Supreme Court issued the respective decision on May 2, recognising both men as the child’s parents.

Menclova then turned to the Czech authorities that were to issue the baby’s birth certificate.

Defence lawyer Petr Kalla, who is dealing with similar cases, told Mlada fronta Dnes, that the court’s decision is of an immense symbolic importance as for the first time a Czech same-sex couple was recognised as rightful parents, Kalla said.

Prague Daily Monitor – May 19, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.