December 27, 2001
Government consults over disclosure
of information about sperm, egg or embryo donors
- 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.