“Opening Pandora’s Box”

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A popular afternoon television show here used to feature an angry woman and one or two scofflaw men denying fathering a baby. We would get to hear lengthy rants by the woman followed by righteous denials by the men. The camera then would show us the adorable baby waiting back stage to be united with the true father. After endless commercials, the host would open an envelope and announce either “You ARE the father” or “You ARE NOT the father.” The woman would yell, the man run off the stage, the crew would try to calm everyone down, the baby would be brought out and placed in the suddenly eager arms of the real father.” Supposedly all live happily ever after when the show concludes.

Lately a great deal of attention has been paid to the chaos in some families resulting from DNA testing done by one of the family members. Here there is no crew member waiting to calm everyone down. Instead a daughter discovers that her “real” father is someone else. Or a man learns that he isn’t the “real” father of the children he has raised. Or a woman discovers that the sperm from an unknown donor really came from her gynecologist who also impregnated many other women. One woman has sold many copies of her memoir “Inheritance” recounting her life being totally disrupted by such an event.

I think that many times children wish that they had different parents. One of mine yelled at me “I wish I were adopted and you weren’t my real mother.” But I am distressed by the kind of turmoil that happens by learning that things are not as they seemed. What does it mean to have been raised by a man who is now told he isn’t the “real” father? Why this sudden insistence that biology is more important than lived reality?

Perhaps the problem lies more in secrecy. Secrets rarely stay secret forever. And DNA testing has uncovered many secrets. I wish that more people could just acknowledge the toll that secrets can take on families. And I hope that fewer people would take the opportunity to abandon the people who raised them as they go searching for their “real parents.”

17 thoughts on ““Opening Pandora’s Box”

  1. I have no children, but I also have no interest in such DNA tests. For one thing, how do I know they are accurate? And like most people in England, I would likely turn out to be ‘Viking’. 🙂
    It’s a 1,000 year-old ‘so what’? 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Much of what we call progress these days can come at such a high cost to people. DNA testing might be great on the television drama shows, but can wreak havoc on real families.

  3. It must be a little off-putting to be told you are not sired by people who raised you but in the long run, one must be grateful for it because they love you despite and inspite of. One of my nieces was adopted by my brother when she was just a baby, Nothing changed, it feels no different whether she is a blood relation or not. I love her like the rest.

  4. DNA tests were meant to help people whose parents don’t own up. But I never realised they could disrupt lives like that. I know of atleast 3 families in my close circle who adopted children in secret and have raised them beautifully, one of them is now 35+.
    I wonder what happens when they find out. Does it really matter who gave me a sperm or ovule, if they raised me all their lives? Does finding true parent ensure true love?

  5. In my state, a very old law states that regardless of which man contributed sperm, the husband of the birth mother is the baby’s legal father. The law was created to try to resolve paternal responsibility issues ahead of time.

    I have never been interested in DNA testing for fun. It seems that it is more likely to harm people than to improve their lives.

  6. I have written a few articles on this lately for clients who cover paternity rights. It really is opening Pandora’s box and the kids are the ones who suffer most when they are young. If the lived father won’t take responsibility anymore because he’s not the biological father, who does that child have? Is DNA so important?

    I do think it’s important to uncover deception if the man believes it is intentional and has not yet developed a relationship with the child. But once they have a foot in that door, who are they really benefiting by doing that test?

    Another unforeseen problem is that sperm donors can no longer be guaranteed anonymity. If someone else in their family does a DNA test, their offsprings can connect the dots.

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