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All donor-conceived people should have access to donor information, Australian committee recommends

02 April 2012

By Rosemary Paxman

Appeared in BioNews 651

A law reform committee in the Australian state of Victoria has recommended that all donor-conceived people should be able to access identifying information about their donor parents.

Under current rules, only people conceived from gametes donated after 1 January 1998 are permitted unconditional access to donor information. People from gametes donated prior to this date may also access indentifying information, providing consent is obtained from the donor.

But people who were conceived from gametes donated before 1 July 1988, when the Infertility (Medical Procedures) Act came into effect, have no rights to access information about their donor.

The Victorian Parliament's Law Reform Committee, a joint committee with members taken from both the Legislative Assembly and Council, has recommended that the Victorian Government introduce legislation to allow all donor-conceived people, including those conceived with gametes donated before 1988, to obtain identifying information about their donors.

'While the Committee recognises that donors who donated their gametes before 1988 did so on the basis of anonymity, the Committee considers that donor-conceived people have a right to know the identity of the person who contributed half of their biological makeup', said the Committee's Chair, Mr Clem Newton-Brown, MP.

'The Committee is convinced that this right must be given precedence, even over the wishes of those donors who would like to remain anonymous'.

Some doctors have criticised the decision, warning that the proposal could compromise patient confidentiality and may be in breach of privacy guarantees previously offered to donors. Disregarding such assurances of anonymity could 'seriously undermine the public's trust in the medical profession', warned Dr Harry Hemley, President of AMA Victoria, a professional body representing doctors in the State.

The Committee said it did not want donors to be unreasonably affected by the release of information. It recommended donors should be given the option of placing a 'contact veto' should a pre-1988 donor conceived person lodge an application for information. The veto prohibits contact between the donor and donor-conceived person and would be backed by penalties for a breach. If not renewed, a veto would expire after five years and are revocable at any time by the donor.

Also included in its recommendations, the Committee called on the Victorian Government to introduce measures to ensure medical information about the donor is passed on to the donor-conceived person, and is shared with half-siblings, if there was a genetic or hereditary health risk.

It also recommends that non-identifying information about half siblings should be available to prevent people unknowingly starting a relationship with someone related to them. 46643, Counselling} and support services will also be provided to donors, donor-conceived people and anyone affected by donor-conception as part of the Committee's recommendations.

The Victorian Government has six months to respond to the Committee's report.

ABC News | 28 March 2012
Victoria Parliament Law Reform Committee | 28 March 2012
The Age | 29 March 2012
Victoria Parliament Law Reform Committee | 28 March 2012
The Australian | 28 March 2012
Sydney Morning Herald | 28 March 2012


14 March 2016 - by Professor Guido Pennings 
The State Legislature of Victoria has decided unilaterally to break their agreements with the sperm donors who donated before 1998 and will reveal their identity. It is difficult to imagine a measure that shows more disrespect for both donors and recipients...
06 July 2015 - by Rebecca Carr 
The Australian state of Victoria has revealed plans to extend rules removing donor anonymity to allow all donor-conceived people access to identifying information about their sperm or egg donor, irrespective of the donor's consent or when they donated...
22 April 2013 - by James Brooks 
A podcast produced as part of the When It Takes More Than Two project organised by the Progress Educational Trust...
03 December 2012 - by Ruth Retassie 
A British Columbia court has ruled that donor-conceived people do not have a constitutional right to know their biological origins and has reversed an earlier decision that would have effectively removed donor anonymity in the province....

27 February 2012 - by Dr Marilyn Crawshaw and Walter Merricks 
It is now eight years since the HFEA first issued guidance to UK licensed treatment centres to respond as fully as possible to patients' requests for non-identifying donor information...
20 February 2012 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
Lawyers representing British Columbia's government were at the Canadian province's Court of Appeal last Tuesday attempting to overturn an earlier ruling which would effectively end anonymous gamete donation...
05 September 2011 - by Dr Sonia Allan 
An Australian commercial television station recently ran a news story about a donor-conceived woman who has heritable bowel cancer (1). She did not inherit it from her mother. She is denied access to information about her sperm donor because he donated before laws in Victoria enabled information to be released to the donor-conceived. She cannot contact her eight half-siblings, who share that donor, to warn them they may be at risk...
06 June 2011 - by Professor Eric Blyth and Dr Marilyn Crawshaw 
The regulation of assisted human reproduction in Canada has had a long and tortuous history. Twenty one years after a Royal Commission appointed by the federal government recommended legislation (1), and following several failed attempts to get legislation through the Canadian parliament, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act 2004 came into force (2)...
14 March 2011 - by Ben Jones 
An Australian Senate Standing Committee has published a report calling for widespread updates to the law governing donor conception, including greater monitoring of compliance among clinics and practitioners and the development of new forms of oversight to support the current regulatory framework....

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