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Canadian court allows woman to seek information on sperm-donor father

Antony Blackburn-Starza

Progress Educational Trust

30 October 2010

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[BioNews, London]

A Canadian woman conceived through donor insemination has been allowed to bring legal action against the province of British Columbia to obtain information about her biological heritage, which may include the identity of the sperm donor involved in her conception. 

Olivia Pratten argues British Columbia has failed to protect her right to know the identity of her biological father and that she is entitled to information regarding her conception, which is important to her psychological well-being. She claims British Columbia failed to legislate to ensure donor records are preserved and says there is an inequality under the law in a person's right to know their biological heritage between donor conception and adoption. 

Even if records regarding her own conception no longer exist, the court felt satisfied a declaration may resolve controversy surrounding the rights of donor-conceived individuals. In permitting the case to proceed to trial, the Honourable Madam Justice Gropper sitting in the Supreme Court of British Columbia said: 'This is a serious matter, and the plaintiff and others are directly affected'. She added: 'She has satisfied me that there is a serious issue to be tried; that her position that the province has failed to enact protective legislation in respect of gamete donors is one which affects Ms Pratten directly or she has a genuine interest in protecting'.

Federal legislation prevents a donor's health records from being destroyed but the provisions are not yet in force. There is no provincial regulation in British Columbia on how donor information should be treated and the provisions of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act 2004 will not extend to record keeping at the time Ms Pratten was conceived. The Act allows donors to remain anonymous and it is unclear what impact a ruling in Ms Pratten's favour would have on this position.

The Act itself is currently in contention with the Quebec government challenging it for encroaching upon the jurisdiction of the provinces. British Columbia had argued that Ms Pratten's claim should be adjourned until Canada's Supreme Court decides on the matter, but this was rejected by Justice Gropper. 

Ms Pratten was conceived in 1981 through donor insemination using sperm obtained from an anonymous donor. She filed an action against British Columbia and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia in October 2008 and obtained a temporary injunction in December 2008 preventing the destruction or removal of the records. Her attempts at obtaining information about her conception have to date failed with the gynaecologist involved in the original procedure maintaining that the records may no longer exist.

 'It's about wanting to fill in the blank and know, this is who [the sperm donor] was', said Ms Pratten. The trial is set for 25 October 2010.

© 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: 30 October 2010   Date Updated: 30 October 2010
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