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Sperm donor anonymity in question in British Columbia court case

Julianna Photopoulos

Progress Educational Trust

22 February 2012

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[BioNews, London]

Lawyers representing British Columbia's (BC) government were at the Canadian province's Court of Appeal last Tuesday attempting to overturn an earlier ruling which would effectively end anonymous gamete donation.

The lawsuit was originally launched by a donor conceived woman, Olivia Pratten, who filed an affidavit arguing that the adoption laws discriminated against donor conceived people as they couldn't access similar information.

In May last year, BC Supreme Court judge Elaine Adair sided with Pratten and deemed the BC Adoption Act unconstitutional. In her judgment Madam Justice Adair said that people deprived of information regarding their genetic backgrounds suffer psychological harm. She granted an injunction to prohibit the destruction and disposal of donor records and gave the BC government 15 months to amend the Act to take into account the judgment.

The BC government is now contesting the ruling. Representing the government, Leah Greathead told the court that as BC adoption law is targeted specifically at adoptive children it does not address - and does not violate - the rights of donor conceived people.

Joseph Arvay, representing Ms Pratten, countered that 'the legislative scheme is discriminatory when it provides benefit to adoptive people ... because they have real needs [to know their genetic heritage and medical history] and deny benefits to those who have the same needs'.

Ms Greathead also told the court that there had been a marked improvement in the attitudes of sperm banks to this issue over the last 30 years and that many now allowed for donor conceived people to find out about their biological fathers.

But in an interview outside the court during a break in proceedings, Ms Pratten told the Vancouver Sun that 'just because people are voluntarily doing some things in certain cases, doesn't mean anyone is obligated to. The thing is, there is a complete void in the law. That's why this [case] has come forward'.

The Supreme Court's earlier ruling was not retroactive and information regarding sperm and egg donations carried out prior to the judgment would not be made available without the donor's consent.

Donor anonymity was removed in the UK in April 2005 with the introduction of an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act enabling donor conceived children to access identifying information about their biological parents once they were 18 years old. Other countries, including Sweden, Holland, and parts of Australia no longer allow donor anonymity.

© 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: 22 February 2012   Date Updated: 22 February 2012
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