BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Health  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Medical notes
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Call to end sperm donor anonymity
IVF clinic
More couples are seeking donated sperm and eggs
The public is in favour of giving the children of sperm donors more information about their biological parents, according to a survey.

More than three-quarters of people questioned in a MORI poll thought children born using donated sperm or eggs should have a right to know their genetic history at 18.

No one has the right to deliberately deceive people or deprive them of information about their personal history

David Gollancz, conceived using donor sperm
And 83% of the 1,000 surveyed believed children over 18 should have access to their biological parents' health and medical histories.

The poll, commissioned by the Children's Society, found almost two thirds felt donor children should have the same rights to know their biological parents as adopted children.

Only 35% said parents should have a choice as to whether their medical history was disclosed.

It comes as the government considers whether to change the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority Act.

A six-month Department of Health consultation is due to end on 1 July.

About 1,500 children are born every year in Britain from donated conceptions.

Campaigners have called for people conceived from donor sperm or eggs to be allowed greater access to genetic and medical information about their parents.

This could include information that would identify a donor by name, enabling them to be traced.

Right to dignity

The Children's Society believes the existing legislation is flawed.

"Current legislation puts the right of a parent to have a child before the needs of children to have essential information about their genetic history and this imbalance must change," project manager Julia Feast said.

Donor conceptions
1,500 babies born in Britain each year
About 30,000 in all born after assisted conception
High Court test cases seeking more non-identifying information on donor fathers
Calls for voluntary contact register for donors
"It's time for the government to acknowledge that openness and honesty should now become the accepted practice, so that all of tomorrow's children grow up with dignity and a right to their identity."

Under the terms of the Act, children who are born through donor insemination are entitled to limited information about their genetic parents.

At the age of 16, they can discover if they are genetically related to a person they intend to marry.

They are also entitled to discover at the age of 18 if they were conceived through fertility treatment.

Campaigners want this to be extended further. They are calling for greater disclosure of the genetic and medical histories of donor parents and of their identity.

David Gollancz, a 49-year-old lawyer, was 12 when he found out he was conceived by donor insemination.

He said: "No one has the right to deliberately deceive people or deprive them of information about their personal history. But the state has allowed this to be done to a whole generation."

Anonymity fears

However, some people fear that fewer sperm donors will come forward if they lose their anonymity.

Glen Atkinson, medical director of the fertility clinic CARE, in Manchester, said: "The numbers of donors in this country are actually reducing, and particularly in terms of egg donation.

"If donors feel someone's going to knock on their door in 18 years' time, they'll think twice about donating.

Tim Hedgley, Director of the Electronic Infertility Network, said fewer men in their 20s would be likely to donate sperm if the law was amended.

He told BBC News Online: "I think you will see the profile of a sperm donor going to someone aged 40-45, to a man who has already established his own family and is quite happy for his details to be known".

He said he was concerned that any new legislation might eventually lead to the identification of existing sperm donors.

"Eventually there may well be a retrospective change in the law. This may be the first chink in the armour."

The BBC's Matthew Hill
"Fertility clinics can only pass on basic information"
See also:

24 Jun 02 | Health
22 May 02 | Health
20 May 02 | Health
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |