Donors of sperm or eggs could lose their right to anonymity as the fertility regulators consider recommending the measure be discarded.
Under existing rules, such contributors are totally nameless, although those who have been involved since 2005 can be contacted by their biological offspring when those children turn 18, but the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which governs the fertility industry, has warned popular DNA testing websites make it more difficult to keep identities confidential.
Currently, the fertility watchdog is considering recommending scrapping anonymity for sperm donors and egg donors as part of an overhaul of fertility laws.
Peter Thompson, HFEA chief executive, said that they feel that the technology of affordable DNA tests throws into question the underlying premise of obscurity.
He said that given that, the responsible thing to do would be to start a discussion about where we as a society want to go on these things. It’s a big change.
Whether families like it or not, he told a newspaper outlet that confidentiality might become impossible in the future and that the honest truth is that people will just find out.
The HFEA has launched a review of UK fertility law to recommend to the Government what needs to be updated.
If men could choose to give their names and contact details when they donate sperm, it would bring the UK closer to the US. In the States, some sperm banks offer women looking for contributors a dossier of information. Details that include men’s star sign, religion, hobbies and favourite kind of pet.
Fertility charities are concerned that the current lack of known sperm contributors, for women who want their child’s biological father to be known to them, is pushing people online.
On websites such as Facebook, there is no shortage of sperm donors. However, some try to pressure women into sexual activity or father too many children in one location, increasing the risk of unwitting incestuous relationships between them.
Mr Thompson said the HFEA hadn’t decided on a proposal around anonymity, and that one option under review was the obscurity of donors being lifted at birth rather than at age 18.
In answer to a question about whether this might discourage donors, he said it wasn’t the case when the law changed in 2005. Although the number of contributors dropped briefly, but then it recovered.
The HFEA is also expected to request stronger powers to fine fertility clinics found to be selling useless add on treatments. It also wants to make it easier for same-sex couples and single people to access treatment.
Anonymity was already lost a long time ago with all the DNA testing that’s done, and it’s so easy to do as well, so if men do contribute their sperm they should donate with the realisation that there is no obscurity anymore.
The point is that at the moment the sperm donor’s child can’t find out until they’re 18 who their biological father is, and if they were allowed to find out before then the father might be liable for child support.
Is this fair? No, not really. They gave their sperm anonymously so that someone could have a child because perhaps they were not able to have a child naturally. If the child wants to find their biological father after the age of 18 then that’s different, and I’m sure there are numerous sperm donors that would rather not be found. They provided a service and that was as far as it went because the repercussions of that didn’t go through their mind at the time.