Just Another Guy with Opinions

Twins Marry Each Other

Posted by shadmia on January 14, 2008


In most, if not all cultures, incest is taboo. Sexual contact between close relatives is severely frowned upon. Aside from societal prohibition there are scientific/medical reasons why incest should not be allowed. The similarity in their DNA poses significant health risks to children born of such a union. There is a substantially increased risk of sterility, deformity and death.

There was the case of twins who got married before they learned that they were brother and sister. This was related by David Alton, a member of Britain’s upper House of Lords.

“It involved the normal birth of twins who were separated at birth and adopted by separate parents,” said Alton. “They were never told that they were twins.”

The twins (whose identities have been withheld) grew up separately and met each other not knowing that they were siblings. They fell in love and got married. It wasn’t until after they were married that they discovered that they were twins. The marriage was annulled at a special hearing in the High Court last year with the judge ruling it had never been valid. Under the 1986 Marriage Act, it is illegal to marry your sibling, parent, grandparent, grandchild and various other blood relatives.

“The judge had to deal with the consequences of their marriage, and all the issues of their separation,” Alton said. “For them it was a terrible tragedy. It was an incredibly heartrending experience.”

Alton brought this story to the attention of the House of Lords not for its own sake but to draw attention to a wider issue. He believes that the risk of siblings unwittingly marrying each other is rising fast because of the prevalence of IVF treatment. He says it highlights the need for children to know who their parents are.

In vitro fertilization and embryo transfer (IVF-ET) was first successfully used in humans over 25 years ago; since then, more than one million children have been conceived using this technology. IVF is a procedure designed to enhance the likelihood of conception in couples for whom other fertility therapies have been unsuccessful or are not possible. It is a complex process and involves multiple steps resulting in the insemination and fertilization of oocytes (eggs) in the laboratory. The embryos created in this process are then placed into the uterus for potential implantation.

“This isn’t a regular occurrence but it could become one with large numbers of people now being born by IVF and not knowing their true identities,” Alton said. “It would be a terrible act of deception, with the state colluding in that deception, to remove the biological identity of your father from the birth certificate,” he added.

He was reacting to The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, now working its way through the British parliament, which recognizes same-sex couples as legal parents of children conceived through the use of donated sperm, eggs or embryos.

Adoption groups said the case proves the need for openness and transparency during the adoption process. Mo O’Reilly, director of child placement for the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, released a statement saying: “Thirty or 40 years ago it would have been more likely that twins be separated and brought up without knowledge of each other.” However, she said, greater emphasis in recent years on ensuring adopted siblings stay in touch meant this “traumatic” case will remain “incredibly rare.” Daisy O’Clee, a spokeswoman for the agency, said that of more current concern is the lack of legislation surrounding fertility treatment. She warned that in its present form the proposal (The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill) does little to address the rights of donor-conceived children.

“The rights of donor children are being ignored,” she said.

Under British law the parents of a donor-conceived child do not have to declare that fact on the child’s birth certificate. This means a child conceived with a donor sperm or egg may never know their true origin.


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