Who’s your daddy?BMJ 2011; 342 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d3619 (Published 08 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3619
- Anna Smajdor, lecturer in ethics at the University of East Anglia
“It is a wise child that knows its own father.” When Telemachus, putative son of Odysseus, spoke these words, he meant that there was no way of establishing paternity. You have to take your mother’s word for it. For many centuries, this remained true. But not any more.
With the proliferation of modern reproductive techniques, the question of what it means to know your own father has become far more complex—or perhaps more straightforward. DNA paternity testing is generally regarded as giving an accurate account of paternity. But, on the other hand, modern mothers have new and complex ways of conceiving that might have seemed to the ancient Greeks even more fantastical than their own myths of conception (the showers of gold, gestating thighs, and amorous swans, bulls, and so on).
Gamete donation, in vitro fertilisation, and surrogacy have introduced new ways of interpreting what it means to be a father (or indeed a mother). But we still tend to rely on our mothers to tell us how we were conceived. The wise children of today …