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Donor anonymity abolished in UK

4 April 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 302

British people conceived using donated egg, sperm or embryos will be able to ask for identifying information about the donor when they reach the age of 18, following a law change that came into force on 1 April 2005. Fertility experts have welcomed the move towards openness, but fear that the legislation will worsen the current shortage of donors in the UK. It could also lead to an increase in the use of unregulated internet sperm agencies, and the number of couples travelling for treatment in other countries, they say.

Fertility clinics say that they have already noticed a decline in the numbers of people coming forward to donate gametes, since the announcement, made last January, that the rules on anonymity were to be changed. Speaking on the day the new law came into effect, health minister Stephen Ladyman said: 'We think it is right that donor-conceived people should be able to have information, should they want it, about their genetic origins and that is why we have changed the law on donor anonymity'. On the predicted shortage of donors, he said that 'we are working hard with the National Gamete Donation Trust (NGDT) to encourage more people to become donors and have launched an awareness campaign which aims to change public perceptions of donation'.

British agencies offering to collect and supply fresh, rather than frozen sperm do not have to be licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), so will not be covered by the new regulations. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, internet company says that it will import sperm from countries where donors can donate anonymously and have it delivered to a woman's home. Founder John Gonzalez said that by using sperm sent from abroad in a 'constantly thawing state', ManNotIncluded will be able to supply anonymous samples directly to women in the UK. However, a spokesman for the HFEA warned that women using unregulated services could not be certain of the source, suitability and efficacy of the sperm they received.

Laura Witjens, chair of the NGDT, said evidence from countries that have already removed donor anonymity, such as Sweden, shows that it is no longer young students who donate sperm. After an initial fall in donor numbers, she said that the profile of donors changes: 'Instead of young single men who do not have children, it tends to be older men, who do have children and who see that what they are doing is creating a family, who come forward', she explained. But Allan Pacey, chair of the British Fertility Society, warned that 'there is now serious concern about the future of fertility treatments using donated gametes'.

Sperm and egg donor anonymity comes to end
The Daily Telegraph |  1 April 2005
Sperm donor anonymity ends
BBC News Online |  31 March 2005
Website bypasses sperm donor law
The Daily Telegraph |  30 March 2005
2 March 2020 - by Freddie Howell 
Anyone who donated sperm, eggs or embryos in the UK prior to the 2005 law change was promised life-long anonymity. Now in 2020, the probability of donors remaining anonymous is very much diminished, and continues to reduce, as more and more people take direct-to-consumer DNA tests...
7 April 2014 - by Dr Ruth Curson 
Sadly, there are currently not enough egg and sperm donors in the UK to meet our needs. Recipients are now seeking alternative routes to find donors, either by travelling abroad or from unregulated internet sites: both with the potential for unwanted consequences...
25 September 2009 - by Dr Caroline Jones 
October sees the enactment of almost the entire Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act 2008, including the new disclosure provisions for donor-conceived individuals and gamete/embryo donors. In this commentary I outline the amended disclosure provisions and highlight a number of issues raised by these changes....
8 May 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
A investigation undertaken by the Scotland on Sunday newspaper has found that some fertility clinics in the country are treating lesbians and single women on the National Health Service. The investigation shows that three Scottish health boards pay for donor insemination and sometimes IVF for lesbian...
11 November 2005 - by BioNews 
The number of potential sperm donors applying to one UK clinic fell sharply after 2000, 'almost certainly' due to growing awareness that changes to the law would remove donors' right to anonymity, a new study shows. The researchers, based at the Newcastle Fertility Centre at LIFE, have called for urgent...
29 March 2005 - by BioNews 
British fertility doctors say that a forthcoming law ending anonymity for egg and sperm donors will worsen the current donor shortage in the UK, and will also lead to an increase in patients seeking treatment abroad. The British Fertility Society (BFS) says it 'welcomes steps towards openness in fertility treatment...
26 January 2005 - by BioNews 
The UK's Department of Health (DH) has today launched a new national campaign aimed at increasing public awareness about the need for egg and sperm donation, and encouraging potential egg and sperm donors to come forward. The campaign, called 'Give Life, Give Hope' focuses primarily on men aged 28-40...
10 January 2005 - by BioNews 
The UK's Department of Health is to launch a new national campaign to recruit egg and sperm donors in the country. It hopes to prevent further shortages of donors, a problem that has been exacerbated by new regulations, coming into force in April, which will remove anonymity from all future...
29 November 2004 - by BioNews 
Cryos International, a Danish sperm bank, is said to have recruited 40 sperm donors to meet British requirements, ready to supply the UK market when rules on sperm donation change on 5 April 2005. Cryos, the largest commercial sperm bank in the world, hopes to take advantage of an expected...
20 May 2004 - by Steve Harbottle, Sudipta Paul and Jane Stewart 
One in six couples have fertility problems. Male factors are known to be responsible for about 30 per cent of these cases, and are associated with another 30 per cent in combination with female factors. Despite the advent of artificial reproductive techniques - intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) in particular - the demand...
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