Will my child be able to have information about their donor and/or make contact with him/her?
Your child’s rights to have information about or contact with their donor depends on when, where and how they were conceived.
April 2005 onwards….
Most children conceived at a UK licensed clinic from April 2005 have the right to know the name of their donor and his or her last known address from age 18 onwards. If they have not been given non-identifying information about their donor by their parents, donor conceived young people can ask for this from age 16.
There are a few children created by sperm donation after April 2005 whose donors are anonymous. Most of these are siblings of children conceived before this date and whose parents wished to have a second or subsequent child from the same donor. 2005 was designated a ‘transitional year’ from one system to another and until April 2006 clinics were allowed to use up supplies of anonymous donor sperm. They should have sought consent from recipients to use this sperm, but there may have been instances where this did not happen. The HFEA should be able to confirm whether a 2005 donor was anonymous or identifiable.
August 1991 – April 2005
August 1991 is the date when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act came into force in the UK and the Register of treatments, donors and donor conceived people started.
Children conceived at UK licensed clinics between August 1991 and April 2005 do not have the right to identifying information about their donor at any time, unless the donor has re-registered as willing to be known with the HFEA.
They do have a right to non-identifying information from age 16 if parents have not shared this information before. They can also enquire if anyone they are intending to have children with or are in an intimate relationship with was conceived from the same donor. Both parties to the relationship need to give their permission for this.
At age 18 young people from this era can put their names on the Donor Sibling Link register held by the HFEA if they are interested in contact with half-siblings by mutual consent.
Parents of children and young people conceived from August 1991 onwards can apply to their clinic or the HFEA to find out how many other children have been conceived from the same donor, their years of birth and their gender. There is no right to know about children conceived into the family of the donor.
Before August 1991
Before this date there was no legislation to regulate assisted conception treatments. Clinics followed general guidelines on testing etc. laid down by professional bodies such as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, but records were kept by individual practitioners and clinics, rather than centrally as they are now. NHS clinics offering donor conception will have had to follow the rules in place for record keeping in their area, but private fertility specialists kept their own files and often destroyed them when they left practice.
People conceived by sperm or egg donation prior to this date have no rights to find either non-identifying or identifying information about their donor or half-siblings.
There are currently two ways for donor conceived people from this era to potentially make connections with half-siblings or their donor.
One is the Donor Conceived Register (DCR). This is an independent organisation, funded by the Department of Health, that runs a voluntary information exchange and contact register. It also offers an advice and support service. Registering with the DCR and giving a sample of DNA via an inside cheek swab, offers the best chance of making connections but it depends on other offspring and donors registering as well.
The second possibility is putting a name and details on the Donor Sibling Registry. This US based registry was started by Wendy Kramer and her donor conceived son Ryan. They have connected thousands of half-siblings and made a significant number of offspring/donor connections as well. Although the UK part of the data base is much smaller than that of the US, it is growing in popularity as a place for UK offspring to search for siblings.
Children conceived in the UK but not in a licensed clinic
The details of children, and their donors, conceived outside of licensed clinic premises do not appear on the register held by the HFEA. If their donor is known to their parent or parents then they may be able to have considerable information or contact, but this would be subject to the agreement made between recipient and donor and any subsequent changes of mind on part of either party.
Children conceived abroad
The details of children conceived outside of the UK do not appear on the register held by the HFEA. Exporting sperm from an identifiable UK donor to another country in order to have double donation, does not mean that details of the treatment and any resulting child can appear on the register.
Records of treatments, donors and any resulting children will be held according to the laws of the country where the fertility procedure took place.
Children conceived in most places abroad do not have the same rights to information and contact with those genetically related to them as children conceived in the UK.
Will my child be able to contact other children conceived with the same donor or children in the family of the donor?
Since April 2010, children conceived in licensed UK clinics after August 1991 have been able to register from their 18th birthday onwards to have contact with half-siblings from the same donor by mutual consent. They do not have a right to contact with children in the family of the donor and these children do not appear on the Register. Children in the donor’s family do not have the right to contact children conceived by the gift of donation by a parent or parents into another family.
Is there any other way that my child can make contact with half-siblings?
Links between half-siblings are beginning to happen in the UK, but rather more slowly than the US where the availability of donor numbers, for matching purposes, and the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR) have opened the doors to these connections. As increasing numbers of people in the UK are importing sperm from US donors and making links via the DSR, global relationships are developing and beginning to change how we define ‘family.’ The DSR is open to people who have used UK recruited donors.
In the UK donor numbers are no longer given out. The HFEA did give these numbers out at one time but in 2010 decided, as a result of undisclosed legal advice, to stop doing so.
Connections between half-siblings has been made in the past, informally by members at conferences.