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Anonymity

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Among the many considerations when you are donating your eggs or looking for an egg donor, is how the UK legal position will impact you and also any future child.

What is the law in the UK?

 

Egg donation is not ultimately anonymous in the UK. Although a donor will not be known to the receiving parents at the time of donation, at 18 donor-conceived people have the legal right to know who their donor is.

Currently, all altruistic donors (including egg sharers) and recipients must remain anonymous to each other. Every care is taken to ensure that this confidentiality is maintained.

Regulations on anonymity introduced in 2005 mean that all children conceived as a result of gamete or embryo donation have the right at the age of 18 to identifying information about the donor (full name, last known address, date of birth, town or district of birth).

A donor has no legal responsibilities to any child created from a donation. The person who receives a donation (and their partner if they have one) will be the child’s legal and social parent(s). A donor is not named on the birth certificate and has no rights over how the child is brought up, and does not have to contribute financially.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) Code of Practice permits a maximum of 10 families, including any subsequent siblings, as a result of donations from any single donor.

What information can the donor-conceived person access?

 

At the time of donation, a donor must provide their information to the HFEA (via the clinic), to be kept on a central register. It is the HFEA’s obligation to disclose the information to a donor-conceived adult who applies for this information.

If the donation took place before 1 April 2005, the information will be non-identifying; for any donations after that time, identifying information will be made available on request.

The HFEA must make an attempt to contact identifiable donors to alert them to a request for information before disclosing details to anyone born as a result of their donation.

An egg donor or sharer may request information about live births, birth year and number of children born as a result of her donated eggs.


Confidentiality

Set up in 1991, the HFEA’s register of information about donors, patients and treatments is confidential. It contains information concerning children conceived from licensed treatments from that date onwards.

A person conceived from donor treatment prior to April 2005 has the right to access:

  • Anonymous information about the donor and any donor-conceived genetic siblings from age 16
  • Information about the possibility of being related to the person they intend to marry or enter into a civil partnership with, at any age
  • Information about the possibility of being related to the person they intend to enter into an intimate physical relationship with, from age 16

A person conceived from donor treatment after 1 April 2005 may also access:

  • Identifying information about the donor (where applicable), from age 18
  • Identifying information about donor conceived genetic siblings, with mutual consent, from age 18

Why has the law on anonymity changed?

 

The change of law in 2005 was introduced after the HFEA consulted widely with donor-conceived people and donors about how donor anonymity should work. The findings showed a desire on both sides to hold open an opportunity for potential future contact if the desire was mutual.

Common thinking dating from an earlier era of sperm donation was that the role of sperm donor should be kept secret from resulting children for their own well-being. As donor-conceived children and their experiences have become better understood, ideas on telling children about their genetic origins have fundamentally shifted.

Over time, understanding of children’s psychology around identity development has shown that disclosure of children’s origins helps them to understand their own relationships and themselves much better.

Disclosing donor identity is now believed to have emotional benefits for the child, who may be curious about physical or personality traits, or about the medical background of a donor, and fears that this disclosure would adversely affect relationships with parents and family have been seen to be unfounded.

 

Useful Links

HFEA: rules about releasing donor information

https://www.hfea.gov.uk/donation/donors/rules-around-releasing-donor-information/

Donor conception network

https://www.dcnetwork.org/openness

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