UK Donor Link, the voluntary register for donor conceived adults and donors from the pre 1991 era, is under threat of closure…possibly as early as October this year. The following letter is being sent by Walter and I to the Public Health Minister Anne Milton. Please can anyone who reads this and cares about the long-term needs of donor conceived people also write to Anne Milton (address below) using any or all of the points raised here. ‘Zannah has also written her own letter.
UK Donor Link
We write to you as parents of a current registrant with UK Donor Link (UKDL) and as the Chair and Practice Manager of the Donor Conception Network.
It is our understanding that the funding for UK Donor Link may come to an end in October this year. That this prospect is deeply distressing for many donor conceived people (and often their parents too) is an understatement.
Donor conceived adults, whose mothers were inseminated with donor sperm (and a few with donor eggs) prior to August 1991, are the only people in the UK whose conceptions took place under the auspices of a medical practitioner and who are denied any knowledge whatsoever about their genetic roots. This makes their situation completely unique and different to that of children conceived as a result of unfaithful liaisons.
Registration with UKDL, together with the giving of a DNA sample, is the ONLY way that these donor conceived people can find connections to genetic relatives.
In 2002 a judgement was made in a High Court test case against the government that led to the setting up of the pilot voluntary register run by After Adoption Yorkshire under the name UK Donor Link in 2004. Both this government and the last one have agreed that the pilot was successful and should become permanent. Nothing has changed, except that the HFEA, now in the process of being taken over by the Care Quality Commission, said that it did not have the resources to combine the register it holds with that of UKDL, recognising that DNA testing is a unique feature of the UKDL service.
This is a human rights issue.
You may be aware that your colleague Earl Howe took a strong interest in the rights of donor conceived individuals when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill was being considered in 2007. He moved amendments to strengthen the rights of donor children to know about their origins and for counselling for potential parents to be mandatory. During the Committee stage, he said: “The fundamental issue concerns human rights. One of the main reasons why, some three years ago, we decided to lift donor anonymity in this country was the recognition, at European level, that every child has the right to know or to find out who his or her parents are. The rights of donor-conceived children were, for many years, being breached by their having no opportunity when adult, to discover their natural parentage.” [Hansard Lords 10 December 2007 Col 91] We took great comfort when he was appointed a Minister in the Health Department, and while this subject is not in his direct field of ministerial responsibility, we hoped that his interest in the rights of donor conceived people would be carried forward in the priorities of the department.
We are aware that UKDL has been given interim monies to try and find alternative funding for the service but as we at DC Network are only too aware, anything to do with donor conception rarely fits the criteria of grant making bodies.
This unique register must not be allowed to close and we look to this government not to let down those people who rely on the lifeline of it’s existence for connections that mean so much to them.
Letters should be sent to Anne Milton, Public Health Minister, Dept. of Health, Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London SW1A 2NS