Monday, March 28, 2011

Birth Mother Needs a Kidney

We see lots of cases where adopted persons need transplants and seek out birth family in the hopes of a match. I'm sure there have also been cases where a birth mother (or some other birth family member) has needed a transplant and has, therefore, sought out a child relinquished for adoption, though I don't have any particular case in mind.  I'm curious as to what people think about that scenario.  Do you feel differently about those two scenarios -- the relinquished child seeking a transplant from birth family vs. the birth family seeking a transplant from the relinquished child?

I ask because of a discussion in my Adoption Law class;  the issue was similar, but not the same.  Under Texas law, a relinquished child can inherit from and through birth parents who died without a will (only a handful of states allow such an inheritance).  A birth parent whose legal rights in the child have been relinquished or terminated cannot inherit from or through that child.

No one in my class thought that a birth parent should be able to inherit from a relinquished child.  But a number of students in my class thought the child also should not be able to inherit from birth parents.  Here are the arguments they advanced: Birth parents are legal strangers to the child.  It seems that the child is getting an undeserved windfall from actual strangers (but then explain why it's okay to inherit from Great-Aunt Mildred whom you've never met?!).  It would diminish the inheritance of any other heirs of the birth parent, including children who were not relinquished but were raised by the birth parent. It seems almost punitive, a "tax" on relinquishing birth parents.

(Of course, all of this applies only to birth parents who do not leave a will. A birth parent can leave money to anyone they like, including a relinquished child, or exclude anyone they want, including a relinquished child.)

More than the legal issues, I'm curious about what people think about what I'll call the "reciprocity" issue.  Should it flow both ways?  To the extent there are moral obligations or connections that can't be severed by law, should birth parents inherit from birth children to the same extent that birth children should inherit from birth parents?  Should it be acceptable for birth family to seek out birth children for kidney/bone marrow/whatever transplants to the same extent it is acceptable for birth children to seek out birth family for the same?


Anonymous said...


When I got sick one of two reasons to open my records was to alert my family to protect them. If I could donate I would.

Regarding Tx law, I think if a "birth" parent does not leave a will then all natural children should share only makes sense. Our dna does not change when we are adopted.

I cannot wrap my mind around a parent not having a will, seems so irresponsible once a child is part of the parents not recognise the danger should they die before their child reaches majority?

Jenna said...

I don't "expect" anything from my relinquished child in this way. However, my daughter is most definitely a beneficiary in my life insurance and is listed in my will.

To the previous commenter; my Grandfather died at 73 with no will. So, yes, some people don't understand the importance of a will. (I don't say that as a grandchild who didn't inherit anything but as a daughter who watched her father have to deal with a bunch of stuff that he wouldn't have had to deal with had a will been in place. Sigh.)

Anonymous said...

Slippery slope & all.....

Not being a Birth Parent I simply cannot speak for them, but I would put out there that for them to seek a relinquished child for medical purposes, when they have previously not sought any contact or even refused contact is tricky. The impetus for an adult to freely make that decision without the agony of guilt or the "what ifs"...such as, if I don't donate this kidney, will I loose my only chance to ever know my bio. family?....and so forth.

If a relationship exists, I see no issues against it, but clearly the decision is a large one and should not be treated lightly.

I think there would need to be a light hand in all of it, so to speak. And then should that parent then thrive or fail to do so? What then??....a relationaship begins? Or someone already dealing with adoptive loss loses again? Hmmm....I guess it would be up to each individual.

As to the will: I agree wholeheartedly with The Adopted Ones; to not have one is foolish and irresponsible. But I have no moral objection to a relinquished child being named an heir if that is the wish of the family. For a bio. family to benefit from the untimely death of a relinq. child?.....If an adult adoptee wills it so, I think its their choice. But for an untimely death with no will in place?? Just don't know.....

Adult Adoptee in her early 20's who would like her slim benefits/savings to go to her youngest siblings and Adoptive Parents should she pass suddenly.

Sunday Koffron Please Stand Up said...

I would think that either of my parents would have to have a lot of gall to come asking me for any of my body parts and I wasn’t ever relinquished, just thrown away. Not to say I wouldn’t step up if there were such a need, just that they would have NO right to ask ME to sacrifice anything on their behalf.

How could the woman in this case give a whole human being away and then go back begging for pieces back when it suites her?

I am sure you can assume where I stand on the inheritance issue…