Right to Knowledge
further on my letter of March 14
SIR,-I should be grateful for the
opportunity to comment and your editorial note.
I think it must be remembered that in almost all cases of adoption. no matter how close the affection which develops between the parties, the familial relationship as such does not go beyond the adoptive parents and children themselves. It is rarely the case that the child is completely assimilated into the family in its wider aspects. ("Of course, he isn't really a Smith".) But, whatever the legal position, an adopted child does not thereby cease to be linked to those whose act brought him into existence, and from whom for good or ill he derives hereditarily traits and characteristics which as a fully responsible adult he must accept and assimilate. To be deprived of all knowledge of his natural origins even after reaching fully adult status is inhuman and psychologically damaging in the highest degree.
If strains have developed in the relationship with his adoptive parents it is not too much to say that an individual may find it very difficult to accept himself at all, and the whole subject of his parentage become a morbid obsession. It was this knowledge. which is based on the practice of the medical profession, and many casehistories, which led the Hurst Committee to recommend that the law in this country should be the same as in Scotland, and there is no evidence that the signatories of the Report have changed their views.
The adoption societies have certainly approved the proposal, and have campaigned successfully and in my view, mistakenly, against it. on the grounds that distress might be caused to the real parent(s) of an adopted child should he eventually seek them out. and that prospective adoptive parents might be deterred by the knowledge that the child might find out his true origins.
It is difficult to accept these arguments which seem 'primarily to regard the child as a property in Whom title can be transferred by a
legal act, instead of a person possessing right S inherent in his own human status. In this context it is most difficult to accept your note about the "rights of a whole group of adults, the husband's children of a mother's subsequent marriage", since no legal or natural rights of theirs are in any way called into question, and their existence is in any case hypothetical.
The fact that the circumstances which brought about an offer of adoption may be distressing, even shameful, and cause embarrassment to a natural parent at the time of birth cannot be held to give to the State the right to deprive an individual of knowledge of his true identity. This touches so closely the personality of an human being that it is not the State's function to withhold it, though it may fairly prevent any misuse of the knowledge which threatens anyone else's, security and happiness.
The law in any case sees to this, and there is no reason to assume that adopted children in general would misuse their knowledge. All the evidence from Scotland is to the contrary.
Finally. may I, in all humility, suggest that it should not need the apparatus of Court, probation officers and social workers to decide that a fully responsible adult Should be allowed to know who he is. This indeed is the man in Whitehall knowing best, and Big Brother in one of his most unattractive guises.
The problem is a very real one and it is essential that the adopted child should create a right and wholesome relationship not only to his surrogate but also to his real parents. This is extremely difficult to do if knowledge of them as real, human persons, who are not to be judged, either by the child or his adoptive parents, is withheld.
4 Downing Court. Grevilla Street. W.C.I.