The Ethics Committee of ASRM Is Releasing a New Opinion: Interests, Obligations, and Rights in Gamete Donation
ASRM Office of Public Affairs21 October 2014
The Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine is issuing a new report, “Interests, obligations and rights in gamete donation: a committee opinion.” This report updates a prior report which discussed the interests, rights and obligations of gamete donors. It expands the discussion to include all of the parties who are involved in the process- recipient parents and their children conceived with donated gametes in addition to egg donors, sperm donors, and the clinics in which assisted reproduction using donated gametes takes place.
In recent years, increased acceptance of egg and sperm donation has led to changing expectations of the relationships between donors, recipients and their children. While in the past, parents may have been reluctant to discuss their use of donor gametes with their children, there has been a movement toward more openness and sharing of this information within families. And, as medical science has made progress in identifying the genetic basis for certain traits and diseases, the interest of donor-conceived children in knowing more about their donors has become keener.
In this document, the Ethics Committee discusses in detail the medical, legal, ethical, and social interests of the parties, the different duties the parties may have to one another and where those duties may conflict, the types and levels of information that may be shared, expectations of privacy, mechanisms for maintaining privacy, and the role the clinic plays in administering the process.
Many of these interests are health-related; other interests fall into the category of curiosity concerning one’s origins or the results of one’s donation. The Committee distinguishes between different levels of information that may be shared, and recommends that, at minimum, gamete donors and recipients should be encouraged to provide appropriate medical updates.
The Committee advises that clinics must inform gamete donors and recipients of the medical, legal and emotional issues that may be involved in the procedure and must be clear and explicit about clinic policies and expectations for future information sharing and contact between donors and recipients and donor-conceived children. Clinics should also make donors aware that, because laws change and ways of searching for individuals using the internet are becoming more efficient, a program cannot guarantee the donor will not be contacted in the future by any children resulting from his or her donation.
Rebecca Sokol, MD, MPH, President of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, commented, “ASRM’s new ethics opinion reflects the ways society’s acceptance and understanding of egg and sperm donation have grown through the years. We recognize that the unique, on-going relationships between gamete donors, recipients, their children, and clinics continue beyond the donation itself and that it is important to all parties that there be clarity in their expectations to share appropriate information- not just initially but into the future.”