All donor-conceived people should have access to donor information, Australian committee recommends
Progress Educational Trust08 April 2012
A law reform committee in the Australian state of Victoria has recommended that all donor-conceived people should be able to access identifying information about their donor parents.
Under current rules, only people conceived from gametes donated after 1 January 1998 are permitted unconditional access to donor information. People from gametes donated prior to this date may also access indentifying information, providing consent is obtained from the donor.
But people who were conceived from gametes donated before 1 July 1988, when the Infertility (Medical Procedures) Act came into effect, have no rights to access information about their donor.
The Victorian Parliament's Law Reform Committee, a joint committee with members taken from both the Legislative Assembly and Council, has recommended that the Victorian Government introduce legislation to allow all donor-conceived people, including those conceived with gametes donated before 1988, to obtain identifying information about their donors.
'While the Committee recognises that donors who donated their gametes before 1988 did so on the basis of anonymity, the Committee considers that donor-conceived people have a right to know the identity of the person who contributed half of their biological makeup', said the Committee's Chair, Mr Clem Newton-Brown, MP.
'The Committee is convinced that this right must be given precedence, even over the wishes of those donors who would like to remain anonymous'.
Some doctors have criticised the decision, warning that the proposal could compromise patient confidentiality and may be in breach of privacy guarantees previously offered to donors. Disregarding such assurances of anonymity could 'seriously undermine the public's trust in the medical profession', warned Dr Harry Hemley, President of AMA Victoria, a professional body representing doctors in the State.
The Committee said it did not want donors to be unreasonably affected by the release of information. It recommended donors should be given the option of placing a 'contact veto' should a pre-1988 donor conceived person lodge an application for information. The veto prohibits contact between the donor and donor-conceived person and would be backed by penalties for a breach. If not renewed, a veto would expire after five years and are revocable at any time by the donor.
Also included in its recommendations, the Committee called on the Victorian Government to introduce measures to ensure medical information about the donor is passed on to the donor-conceived person, and is shared with half-siblings, if there was a genetic or hereditary health risk.
It also recommends that non-identifying information about half siblings should be available to prevent people unknowingly starting a relationship with someone related to them. Counselling and support services will also be provided to donors, donor-conceived people and anyone affected by donor-conception as part of the Committee's recommendations.
The Victorian Government has six months to respond to the Committee's report.
Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.