New law in Australian state ends donor anonymity
Progress Educational Trust01 March 2016
The Australian state of Victoria has passed a bill allowing all people conceived through egg or sperm donation to apply for identifying information about their biological parents.
The bill, which is an amendment to the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2015, will come into force from March 2017.
Currently, only people born from eggs or sperm donated after 1998 can obtain access to identifying information about their donor, including their name and date of birth, once they reach the age of 18. Those born from donor conception before this date can only access such information with the donor's consent. The amendment means that all donor-conceived people will soon be able to apply for identifying information, regardless of when the donations were made or whether the donor consents.
Donors will also be obliged to reveal their heritage and any information they may have about genetic disorders. However, both donors and donor conceived people will be able to manage their contact preferences and can refuse contact all together should they choose to do so. There will be fines of up to A$7500 for a breach of a contact veto, which will be a criminal offence.
'We believe all donor-conceived people should have the right to know about their genetic heritage, no matter when their donors donated,' said Victorian Minister for Health Jill Hennessy.
'This information can make a huge difference to the lives of donor-conceived Victorians. If this information is available, it shouldn't be kept from them.'
However, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has been opposed to releasing identifying information without donors' consent.
'These patients underwent a medical procedure – donating sperm and eggs – and were given explicit and implicit assurances that their donations would be anonymous,' AMA Victorian president Tony Bartone told The Age. 'The government has now overruled these assurances. All patients must feel confident that when they see a doctor and undergo a medical procedure their privacy will be upheld, both now and in the future.'
The bill has become known as Narelle's Law, after Narelle Grech, who died in 2013 from hereditary bowel cancer, and who had spent 15 years searching for her donor.
The bill has been widely welcomed by those who represent donor-conceived people.
'It's really important for children conceived through a donor to be able to access that information about themselves,' the founder of Surrogacy Australia, Sam Everingham, told the Guardian.
'Yes, it's a tricky thing, given people may have donated on the assumption that they would remain completely anonymous. But the culture in Australia these days is all about the rights of the child, and I think that is really important.'
Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.