To loud cheers from donor conceived people around the world, the Law Reform Committee of the parliament of the State of Victoria in Australia has just produced its recommendations on access by donor conceived people to information about donors. Essentially it has accepted the powerful case put by DC adults and others who gave evidence to the committee that it is wrong to deny identifying information about donors to offspring who had no choice about being conceived with the help of a gamete donor. This particularly applies to those conceived prior to 1988 when Victoria was the first jurisdiction in the world to enact legislation regulating assisted reproductive procedures. Victoria has led the way in forward thinking about the practice of donor conception and what it means for those people conceived as a result, and these recommendations are the latest challenge to other Australian states and the rest of the world to re-think their culture, laws and practices.
If the recommendations are accepted by the parliament, and the signs are that they will be, then identifying information about donors will become available to all donor conceived adults no matter which legislative era they were conceived in. Because most early donors gave their gametes on the strict understanding that they would remain anonymous, it will be possible for these donors to place a veto on actual contact, although their details – if clinics still have them – will be given to offspring who ask for the information. That’s how I understand it anyway, although how unofficial contact can be controlled if names are released, I really don’t know.
Parents of DC children in the UK will no doubt have mixed feelings about whether it would be right for similar retrospective legislation to occur here. Many records from the pre HFEA register era have been destroyed so a large proportion of adults would be disappointed in their quest. This is true for our own children. I have what remains of my records from the clinic where I was inseminated, but they contain little of interest other than some cryptic numbers and letters which may or may not refer to the donor. It seems that there were probably parallel donor files which were either destroyed or did not survive storeage when the clinic was closed down by the HFEA.
It is the August 1991 to April 2005 records held by the HFEA that could very easily be opened up to identifying information as offspring turn 18…just as these young people are now able to register to be in touch with half-siblings by mutual consent.
Where Australia leads, could the UK follow?