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Parliament supports children's right to know of donor conception

MacKenna Roberts

Progress Educational Trust

07 August 2007

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[BioNews, London] A UK all party parliamentary committee has recommended that children born through fertility treatments involving donated sperm or eggs should have this information recorded on their birth certificates. The MPs and Peers stated that children have a right to know of their donated biological parentage and believe birth certificate registration of donor conception will encourage parents to discuss their children's true genetic identity with them.

The Joint Committee, tasked with scrutinising the Human Tissue and Embryos (Draft) Bill, felt that because public authorities regulate the provision of fertility treatments, the state cannot collaborate in the deception of children who are not informed of their true genetic identity. Since 2005, UK gamete donors have not had the right to remain anonymous and an individual conceived with the assistance of a donor can, once they reach 18, learn of the identity of the donor. Despite this, many of the 2,000 donor-conceived children born each year in the UK are reported not to be informed of their true genetic identity.

The proposal has been criticised by some as state intrusion on the sensitive and personal parental choice as to if an when to tell their child: 'a bizarre and intrusive solution to a problem that has never been demonstrated to exist', commented Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris. Sheena Young, of Infertility Network UK, has cautioned that further discussion is needed and that better patient education to emphasise the importance of truthful disclosure may be more appropriate. It is feared that documenting details of a gamete donor on a child's birth certificate will compromise parental discretion and result in some children discovering the truth too young.

The committee made the proposal despite acknowledging it raises human rights and data protection issues regarding who has access to this information and how it should be policed. Despite this, David Gollancz, an off-spring of a sperm donor, argued in the Guardian last week that every person deserves to know their personal history, not just for medical reasons, but for personal identity reasons on par with a human right. He argued that, whilst parents cannot be legislated to 'behave with moral probity', the current birth certificate laws amount to complicit 'state fraud'.

The recommendation is one of many submitted to the Department of Health for consideration by the eighteen members of the Joint Committee following its review of the draft Bill.

© 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: 07 August 2007   Date Updated: 07 August 2007
Customer Reviews (1)
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Nicole   21 August 2007

I agree that people have the right to know if they came from donated gametes (supposing they ended up marrying their biological sibling!) but why does the information have to appear on the birth certificate? Why can it not be included in medical records instead? At least these don't have to be presented as a form of ID. I believe that the fact that one is the product of a donor egg or sperm is a PERSONAL matter and doesn't need to be advertised if one applies for a passport for example.

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