The Right of the Donor to Information About Children Conceived From His or Her Gametes

Inez Raes; An Ravelingien; Guido Pennings

Disclosures

Hum Reprod. 2013;28(3):560-565. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

The field of gamete donation for medically assisted reproduction purposes is evolving. While anonymous gamete donation was long the preferred practice, a new focus on the rights and interests of donor-conceived children has led a number of countries to shift towards an open-identity system. However, this evolution appears to overlook whether information exchange could also be of interest to the other parties involved, in particular the gamete donors. In this article, we analyse the question whether donors should be granted a right to some information about the offspring conceived by their donations. We constructed five arguments which donors could use in support of such a claim: (i) It can be of great importance to the donors' and their own children's health that they receive medical information (in particular, evidence of an unsuspected genetic disease) about the donor offspring; (ii) basic information (such as whether any children were born) could be a way to acknowledge donors for their altruistic behaviour; (iii) general information (information about the child's wellbeing) about the donor offspring could ease the donors' potential concern about and sense of responsibility for the offspring; (iv) basic information could provide an important enrichment of the donors' identities; (v) identifying information would be useful for donors who want to contact the donor offspring. No strong arguments in favour of granting donors the right to identifying information were found. An exchange of this type of information should only be accepted when all parties agree. Taken together, the four first arguments form a strong case for granting donors a right to several types of anonymous information about the donor offspring.

Introduction

Over the past two decades, there has been a remarkable trend towards more openness in the practice of gamete donation. While initially only anonymous donation was permitted, 11 jurisdictions, such as Sweden, Finland, The Netherlands, UK, New Zealand and a number of Australian states have shifted towards an open-identity system (Janssens et al., 2011). In these countries, donors are no longer allowed to donate anonymously. Instead, they have to consent to the release of their identity to the children conceived from their gametes if they request this once they become mature.

This shift towards open-identity donation is the result of a new focus on the rights and interests of donor-conceived children (Scheib and Cushing, 2007). However, this evolution appears to focus exclusively on this party. Policy-makers seem to overlook whether information exchange could also be of interest to the other parties involved, in particular the gamete donors. As it stands today, donors rarely receive information about the result of their donation. A few countries make an exception to this. In the UK, since 2009, donors are granted access to anonymous information about the number of children born from their donation, their sex and year of birth (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, 2009). In Victoria and New Zealand, donors can even receive identifying information about their donor-conceived children, but only if the donor-conceived child consents (New Zealand Government, 2004; Victorian Registry of Birth Death and Marriages, 2008).

Apart from these exceptions, the possible interests and rights of donors are not taken into account. Therefore, it would be useful to scrutinize the donors' perspective on the practice of gamete donation. We need to analyse the question, 'do donors also have an interest in receiving some kind of information about the offspring conceived by their donations and do they consequently have a right to such information?'

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