This week I have to do something I have been putting off as, to me, it is a sign of defeat. I must suspend from my PhD for twelve months. After ten bouts of chemotherapy my concentration and energy levels are suffering. On the days when it is administered the steroids keep me awake all night and I am hyperactive but there are the corresponding lows and as my blood count is dropping the tiredness is increasing.
When I started my research on detective fiction, I never thought for one moment that I would have a detective quest of my own to solve where the clues have been deliberately withheld and where this secrecy has been actively encouraged by the law of the land. I have found articles in the British Medical Journal in the 1940s quite revealing about the debate surrounding donor insemination.
I have looked in particular at articles/letters by Reynold Boyd, Mary Barton, K. Walker and B Wiesner, all pioneers in this field in the UK. Apart from his private practice, Dr Reynold Boyd was employed as a hospital genito-urinary specialist and he wrote papers not only about fertility but venereal disease which may have links to what I am learning about the eugenics debate. The discussion about the legal standing of children born by donor conception prior to 1945 was very interesting as, of course, there were arguments put forward that the type of conception should have been entered on the birth certificate which is a legal document. Those of us born by donor conception have a falsified document and the reasons for this are very dubious. On 27th January Boyd in the BMJ quotes a counsel’s view of the time that “the only proper way to register the birth of a child conceived by artificial insemination is by leaving the columns for the name and other particulars relating to the father blank, whatever may be the subsequent embarrassment to the infant”. Subsequently this debate resulted in a UK law which allowed the social father to be registered as the biological father.
I wonder how many people there are who have no idea about their conception, just a feeling of not fitting into their family set-up. To those of us who do know and are actively seeking answers “embarrassment to the infant” has been the least of our worries.