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The BBC's James Westhead
"More than a thousand children are born through sperm donation each year"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 27 December, 2000, 01:51 GMT
Sperm donor anonymity review
Sperm used in artificial insemination
Donors remain anonymous under current laws
People born from donated sperm, eggs or embryos could gain the right to know the identity of their biological parents, under new government proposals.

The Department of Health has announced a review of the current legislation, which automatically maintains donors' anonymity.

But a spokeswoman stressed that donors would have to agree to the release of any information in the future.

And any changes to the law would not be retrospective, so the rights of those who have donated in the past would not be affected.

We are aware it is a very sensitive issue

Department of Health spokeswoman
Under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, people over 18 - and children aged 16 or over who are getting married - have the right to know only that their biological parents were donors.

But no children born using these methods are old enough yet for the present laws to have any effect.

The review - which will consider a number of options - could result in some "non-identifiable" information, such as hair or eye colour, being given to the children of donors.

Medical records

Another possibility would be to give them access to medical history and family health records, even though this could come close to identifying donors.

The most radical option would allow donors to provide a name and address, which would be given to the child on request.

There are no plans to review the current age limits on when access to information can be granted.

The change would not be retrospective
Donors, children and other interest groups will be consulted for the review.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "There are more and more people donating sperm and eggs as time goes on, so we are aware it is becoming more and more of an issue.

"We are going to do a consultation some time in the new year, to find out what all the interested parties think about the current arrangements."

"Any change in the law would not be retroactive, so people who have already been donors would not be affected.

"We are aware it is a very sensitive issue, which is why we need the consultation. We don't want to change laws without talking to people about it."

'Bad news for donors'

The government said in July 1999 that it was planning to review the present law.

At the time, Tim Hedgeley of the National Fertility Association warned that the move was bad news for donors.

"This may be a victory for children, but it certainly is not for the donors," he said.

"Their rights have to be protected too. People already give for altruistic reasons and now they are going to be hammered for it."

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18 Nov 98 | Health
Call to trace sperm donor parents
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A design for life
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Egg donors face cancer risk
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Internet sperm alert
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