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King's College London - Health: More than a medical matter





Canadian woman wins legal case to end donor anonymity in British Columbia

23 May 2011

By Sarah Guy

Appeared in BioNews 608

Anonymous egg and sperm donation will no longer be permitted in British Columbia (BC), Canada, after a donor-conceived woman, Olivia Pratten, took the provincial government to court to argue that its adoption laws discriminated against individuals such as herself.

Anonymous donation is 'harmful to the child, and is not in the best interests of donor offspring', said Supreme Court Judge Elaine Adair.

Pratten was born in 1982 with the help of a sperm donor, and has been attempting for more than ten years to find out the identity and other information about her biological father.

While the 29-year-old has accepted that the court ruling will not help her individually, as it is likely that medical records relating her conception have been destroyed, it will help many others in a similar situation.

'I’m thrilled', she said. 'It's finally validation of what people like myself have been saying for years'.

'It was never just about me. It was about helping other people and using my situation that was a negative, and turning it into a positive so no one else would have to experience having their records destroyed'.

The BC Government has now 15 months to amend the law concerning donor-conceived individuals. The ruling also creates a permanent injunction against destroying donor records (including sperm, egg, and embryo donors) in the province.

 

The ruling is not retroactive, however, and information regarding sperm and egg donations carried out to date will not be made available without the donor's consent.

Judge Adair deemed the BC Adoption Act unconstitutional because it treats adopted children differently from children born via gamete donation - adopted children are given information about their genetic parents when they come of age, donor-conceived children are not.

Although the change in the law will not affect other areas of the country, Pratten said other donor-conceived people have been in touch with her to say they are planning similar action.

She believes that the ruling 'sends a really strong message' to the fertility industry in Canada that they have a responsibility to think about the health and well-being of children created through assisted reproduction involving donated gametes.

Leah Greathead, the lawyer representing BC’s Attorney-General, argued that the rights of an anonymous donor should trump those of donor offspring.

Donor anonymity was removed in the UK in April 2005 with the introduction of an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act enabling donor-conceived children to access identifying information about their biological parents at the age of 18 years.

 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
B.C. judge says anonymity for sperm, egg donors is unconstitutional
The Canadian Press | 20 May 2011
 
Landmark ruling ends sperm and egg donor anonymity in B.C.
The Globe and Mail | 19 May 2011
 
Sperm donors lose anonymity
National Post | 19 May 2011
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

03 June 2013 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The Supreme Court of Canada has declined to hear a case brought by a woman conceived by IVF using donated sperm that would have ended donor anonymity in the province. The decision is likely to be the end of a lawsuit that was commenced five years ago.... [Read More]
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.... [Read More]
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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... [Read More]
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The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that several key powers to regulate and licence fertility practices under Canada's Assisted Human Reproduction Act (the Act) should fall under provincial jurisdiction.... [Read More]
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22 March 2010 - by MacKenna Roberts 
The Canadian ban against women selling their eggs as a source of eggs for fertility treatments is reported to be systemically flawed in practice, according to an expose article published in the April 2010 edition of the Canadian magazine The Walrus. Journalist Alison Motluk interviewed egg 'donors' and recipients, fertility experts and regulators, revealing that the Canadian ban is as farcical as its loose interpretation of the word 'donor'. The article attributed the discrepan... [Read More]
10 November 2008 - by Sarah Guy 
A 26 year old woman in Canada conceived using donor sperm has begun legal action to attempt to make available the identities of anonymous sperm donors, including that of her own father. Olivia Pratten is acting on behalf of all those in British Columbia (BC) conceived using... [Read More]
08 March 2004 - by BioNews 
A Canadian Senate committee has unanimously passed legislation on assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) and related matters. Approval by the Senate virtually guarantees that the Assisted Human Reproduction Act - which has been years in the making - will receive Royal Assent and become law. Last October, bill C-13, entitled 'an Act... [Read More]

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