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New South Wales to 'shake up' fertility laws

Dr. Kirsty Horsey

Progress Educational Trust

27 January 2004

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[BioNews, London] The state of New South Wales in Australia has also proposed to remove the anonymity of sperm and egg donors, as part of a 'major shake-up' of its legislation on assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs).

Following six years of deliberation, the New South Wales health authority has introduced a draft bill on ARTs for consultation. But the new bill does not propose a system in which fertility treatments and related procedures will be formally licensed, as they are in other Australian states, such as South Australia and Victoria.

The bill will establish a central register of sperm and egg donors and will enable children born following the use of donated gametes to trace their biological parents when they reach the age of 18. It will also prevent the donation of genetic material between siblings if that would constitute incest, and proposes a maximum limit of 10 offspring per donor.

The bill also proposes that frozen eggs or sperm will be disposed of after 10 years in storage, and that either partner would be able to withdraw their consent to treatment up until the point an embryo is transferred to the womb. In addition, the bill will ban commercial surrogacy, with offenders being subject to a fine of 275,000 Australian dollars.

Some commentators have expressed concern that the new proposals will increase an already worrying sperm shortage in New South Wales. Last December, one clinic there advertised a free trip to Australia to Canadian students willing to donate their sperm. At the time, the program director of the clinic blamed the donor shortage on the proposed New South Wales law. And Sue Wisheart, from the andrology unit at the Concord Hospital in New South Wales, commented that in the current climate 'donors are extremely scarce. We only get a few a year'. But Morris Iemma, New South Wales health minister, said that the draft bill 'is intended to reflect contemporary views about the rights of people accessing this technology'.

© 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: 27 January 2004   Date Updated: 12 September 2004
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