'Find a sperm donor': Chinese doctor shocked to find failed-pregnancy patient is married to her own cousin

A video in which a college graduate who wed her cousin tells a doctor that she has had four failed pregnancies and three unsuccessful in vitro fertilisation attempts has sparked a heated online debate about inter-family marriage in mainland China.

On June 1, Star Video — a popular self-media platform in mainland China — published a video showing a doctor consulting a woman in northwestern China’s Gansu province who had been struggling to conceive a healthy baby.

According to the video, when the female doctor asked the woman about her family history she was surprised when the woman replied that she was married to her cousin – the son of her father’s sister.

The shocked doctor is heard to say: “From what I understand, only illiterate people marry close relatives,” adding: “As I see here that you both have a bachelor’s degree, why did you still marry your cousin?”. To this the woman said nothing but is seen to smile awkwardly.

Then the doctor asked: “Have you considered splitting up to find your respective other halves?” to which the woman replied: “We’d rather not have a baby then,” explaining that she and her cousin have had a good relationship.

Finally, the doctor suggested that the couple try to find a sperm donor, which could be the best way for them to have a healthy baby.

“That works,” the woman said, according to the video, adding: “ …my husband and families are all on board with this option.”


Cousin marriage is illegal in mainland China, however, according to a widely-cited study, consanguineous marriages — that between close relatives — continue to exist despite the law, particularly in mountainous villages and islands due to less developed transport networks.

Since ancient times, China has prohibited marriages between patrilateral parallel cousins — the children of two male siblings — but has generally permitted men and women of the same maternal ancestor to marry, until the current marriage law took effect in 1981.

Many people online were surprised to learn that in modern China, people with years of education can still end up in such marriage.

One person said: “Why don’t you do your homework ahead of time and avoid falling in love with close relatives?”

Another commented: “I’m not against this type of relationship, but I think it’s a disrespect to life to give birth to children when they know there’s a high chance of aberration.”

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.


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