Identity, Law, and the Right to a Dream?
(2015) 38:2 Dalhousie Law Journal 525-547
24 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2015 Last revised: 29 May 2016
Date Written: January 30, 2015
This paper engages critically with the new orthodoxy holding that individuals have a “right” to know their genetic origins and that such knowledge is crucial to realizing their identities. It examines two case studies: the Pratten litigation under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms regarding anonymous donor conception and scholarship approving a reform to Quebec’s adoption law. It addresses the supposed “identity gap” between those who are adopted or donor-conceived and those who are neither. Arguments for law reform exaggerate that gap, opposing the incomplete, insecure identity of the adopted or donor-conceived to the ostensibly complete, secure identity of those raised by their putatively genetic parents. A result is to overstate what is distinct and harmful about being adopted or donor-conceived. The paper also identifies a mistaken perception of law’s role in fashioning identity and recognizing family ties, including what law does for those who are not adopted or donor-conceived and what it might do for those who are. Some claims for law reform in the service of identity expect more from law than it can or should provide.
Keywords: identity, genetic origins, anonymous donor conception, adoption, Pratten, assisted reproduction
JEL Classification: K19
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation