Born from sperm donation, a young man finds his donor through genetic genealogy

Publié le 30 Jan, 2018

Born through artificial insemination involving an anonymous donor, Arthur Kermalvezen announced on Monday that he had found “his donor” via a genetic test carried out abroad and a genealogical investigation – an approach prohibited by French law[1] and “threw a spanner in the works two days before the opening of Estates General on Bioethics”.


After exploring media, political and legal avenues to no avail in order to locate his donor, the 34 year-old male decided in September to contact the 23andMe company to have a DNA test. “A simple saliva specimen ordered on the Internet for $99” led him to discover that he shared common ancestry with “a young French-British male called Larry”, who he found on social network sites. The specialist  Ancestry site then gave Arthur Kermalvezen access to the family tree of the French side of Larry’s family, from which he extracted  “only one profile to match that of a man old enough to have been his donor”. At this point, “I was 80% certain of my findings,” explains Arthur. I wrote a letter to this man, telling him my story. I preferred to ask neighbours to give it to him because I didn’t know if his friends and family were aware of the situation: ‘I would like to introduce myself. My name is Arthur. I’m 34 years old I’ve always wanted to discover my origins’”. Then, on 25 December, I received a call from this man: “Well done for finding me,” he said. Arthur then learned the story of his donor and his origins. He has also been told that he may be carrying a potentially serious genetic anomaly.


Arthur Kermalvezen’s line of enquiry clearly shows that “nowadays, people can in fact discover their origins”. This means that gamete donor anonymity, which is nevertheless “enshrined in French law”, can no longer be guaranteed. With genetic genealogy, a donor can be found without that person or a family member having a DNA test: “All it takes is for at least one of the descendants of the great-great-great grandparents to be on one of these databases”. The PMAnonyme (Anonymous Medically Assisted Procreation) Association, of which Arthur Kermalvezen was the spokesperson, “nevertheless does not promote massive recourse to genetic testing to allow donor children to discover their origins”. Instead, the association wants “to humanise” the technique by allowing  “children, if they so wish, to have access to their origins on reaching adulthood, or with their parents’ consent if they are minors”.


Following Arthur Kermalvezen’s story, his wife, Audrey, and eight young adults have had genetic tests. Using this method, four of them have discovered that they share common origins. Audrey’s brother comes from the same donor along with one of his clients and the client’s brother. This knowledge allows them  “to feel more rooted in reality” but also raises concerns: “No doubt there are a lot of us”, and this raises the issue of inbreeding.


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[1] “Requesting the examination of genetic characteristics outside the legal framework carries a fine of €3,750 according to Article 226-28-1 of the French Penal Code”.

Le Figaro, Agnès Leclair (15/01/2018)

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