Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Pieces of the jigsaw

I had some interesting reactions to the photograph I published on Sunday. The New Zealanders are obviously interested in Dr Boyd because he came from New Zealand where he was born, to study in Edinburgh, and then practise in London and Essex. However, I believe the family were originally Scottish as one might expect from the name. Apart from his consultancy work in the NHS, he published several articles in the BMJ and seems to have run a clinic specialising in donor conception for some years. A number of people with whom I have been in contact had parents who used his clinic although we are several years apart in age.

In the 1940s he published a letter in the BMJ contributing to the debate about birth certificates. Although he did not advocate releasing the names of donors, he suggested that the name of the father on the birth certificate should be left blank. Ultimately, it was decided – and made legal – that the name of the woman’s husband should be on the birth certificate and that any children conceived by the wife during a marriage should be considered as children of both of them. This avoided the controversy over legitimate and illegitimate births. Although in a number of marriages, children conceived by the wife during an affair were registered as offspring of the married couple, in the case of donor-conceived offspring this was a deliberate attempt by the couple, the donor and the medical practitioner to allow a falsehood to appear on a birth certificate.

I have sent a copy of the photograph to someone with whom I am in contact in Australia. Her mother had a similar experience to mine at the Boyd Clinic and both her parents were shown photographs on the wall of children whose conception had been assisted by Reynold Boyd. Who knows, mine might have been one of those photographs.

Although I am no nearer in knowing the name of my donor father or whether I have any half-siblings, each piece in the jigsaw gives me a better picture. I know that any newspaper articles will have only a limited effect but it is impossible to sit back and do nothing. Although many of the paper records of the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s may have been destroyed it is difficult to see anyone deliberately destroying the records of a life’s work. It is likely that at least some of the data exists in some form. It could be as part of another person’s research paper, in microfiche or mouldering in some filing cabinet – but part of this data exists somewhere.

We are approaching the New Year and I hope that although it will be challenging, there will be some resolutions – to Ray’s case, to my illness and to my quest. But we are not alone. So many others have illnesses, challenges and similar quests. Let’s hope that the new decade will be one of greater enlightenment for us all.

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