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An end to anonymity?

Dr. Kirsty Horsey

Progress Educational Trust

20 January 2004

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[BioNews, London] The UK Department of Health (DH) is expected to announce shortly that British sperm donors are to lose their right to anonymity, according to reports in the Times newspaper and other sources. The existing law in the UK does not allow children conceived using donor sperm to discover the identity of the donor, but only to find out small amounts of non-identifying information about him when they reach the age of 18. The Times said that it has now been ruled that childrens' rights to know their genetic inheritance outweighs donors' rights to privacy.

In 2002, the DH held a public consultation about the information that should be provided to children born after donor assisted conception. The questions considered by the consultation paper asked whether regulations should specify what further information should be made available. The paper asked whether non-identifying information on existing donors should be provided on request and, for future donors, whether more comprehensive non-identifying information should be collected and made available, or whether identifying information should be provided.

The DH was expected to announce at the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) annual conference in January last year whether sperm donors will lose their right to anonymity. Instead, the then public health minister Hazel Blears announced that a decision would be deferred for a further six months. Now, a year later, the HFEA's annual conference is scheduled for 21 January, and speculation is rife that it is there that the DH announcement will be made by public health minister, Melanie Johnson MP, scheduled to give a talk.

Responding to the reports, a number of clinicians have condemned any removal of anonymity, saying that it will result in a further decline in the number of men willing to donate their sperm. Many clinics in the UK already import sperm because of the scarcity of donors. This decline in donor numbers has been attributed to the fear that they may later be identified. Paul Serhal, of University Hospital, London, commented 'we are already having problems recruiting donors and if this happens, the supply will dry up completely'.

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 20 January 2004   Date Updated: 12 September 2004
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