“Joy to the World": Donor conception and identity of donors. The family law 12 days of Christmas - day 11

As we turn our calendars to December, and we can finally start getting into the Christmas spirit, our family law solicitors share several of their favourite family law topics with a festive twist.

Over the first 12 working days of December, they'll be giving their family law version of the 12 songs of Christmas, where they'll cover a wide range of questions or issues that often arise when dealing with family law matters…

Joy to the World: Donor conception and identity of donors

The arrival of a child is awesome and the day a dream of becoming a parent becomes a reality. For those that have endured a long trying to conceive journey, it is a day that is beyond belief. I am yet to meet someone who regretted their decision to go down the donor route. It is however a very personal decision, and at the start of their journey couples pursuing donor treatment have the added complexity of determining whether to use an identifiable donor in the UK, or to travel abroad to a country where anonymous donation is still offered. In the UK, historically, all sperm and egg donors were able to remain anonymous.

However, a change in the law in April 2005, meant that there was a transitional period during which donors could chose whether or not they wanted to be identifiable, and fertility clinics could continue using donated eggs and sperm from anonymous donors. After the conclusion of this transitional period (i.e. donor conceptions from 1 April 2006), donations from anonymous donors could no longer be used and all fertility clinics in the UK had to use eggs or sperm from identifiable donor. From the age of 18, a donor conceived individual can request the release of information about their donor from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), and such information must be released to the individual within 20 working days of the request. 

The change in law allows donor-conceived individuals to discover their biological origins. Finding out their biological origins can bring about a mix of emotions for not only the donor-conceived individual, but also their non-genetic parent. For those considering or pursuing donor-conception, whether to proceed with an identifiable donor in the UK or seek treatment with an anonymous donor abroad can be an incredibly difficult decision to make. Donor conception is a deeply personal journey from all aspects. 

Recent research demonstrates that being open about donor-conception is good not only for donor conceived children, but for the family as a whole. Whilst such conversations can feel uncomfortable and may make the non-genetic parent feel vulnerable to rejection, research shows that being open to a donor-conceived individual about how they were conceived can lead to a better understanding of themselves, learning about aspects of their biological origins, as well as the opportunity to have a true medical history that can be given to doctors diagnosing and treating donor-conceived individuals.

If you or anyone you know would benefit from advice on this, please contact Tom Burgess or Joanne Thomas.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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