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December 27,  2001

Government consults over disclosure of information about sperm, egg or embryo donors


 (SafetyAlerts) - Public Health Minister, Yvette Cooper, today published a consultation paper on the provision of information to people born as a result of sperm, egg or embryo donation. The paper considers whether those born as a result of assisted conception treatment should have a right to receive information about the donor, what information should be provided and whether the information should enable the donor to be identified.

The latest figures provided by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) show that since 1991, when the Authority was set up and started to compile data, nearly 18,000 babies have been born as a result of treatment using donated sperm, eggs or embryos.

At present, people born after such treatment have limited statutory access to information. They can ask, when they are 16, if they may be related to someone they intend to marry, and at 18 they can ask if they were born as a result of infertility treatment using donated gametes or embryos. As these provisions only came into force as a result of the 1990 Act and the first births were almost a year later, the earliest request for information could be in 2008.

Some non-identifying information about the donor may already be provided to the woman or couple by the clinic. This may include information about personal background, physical characteristics and medical history, although studies indicate that 75 per cent of parents decide not to share any information about the conception with the child.

The key questions considered in the paper are:

- Whether regulations are needed to specify what information should be made available about donors?

- For existing donors - whether non-identifying information about the donor should be provided on request?

- For future donors - whether more comprehensive non-identifying information should be collected and provided, or whether information should be provided to enable donors to be identified?

The Human Fertilisation Embryology Act 1990 sets out that information should not be provided which would enable the identification of people who have donated in the past and the Government does not intend to change this section of the Act.

Yvette Cooper said:

"There are strong views on all sides about this issue and it is right that we carry out a full consultation before deciding how to proceed. The development of fertility techniques means that tens of thousands of children will be born as a result of sperm, egg or embryo donation. We need to consider whether those children should have access to information about the donor, as well as assessing the views of donors themselves about how much personal information should be provided."

The consultation will last for six months and seeks the views of professionals and the public on this issue.

Source: PRNewswire.

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