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

23 May 2011
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.

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
3 June 2013 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
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....
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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....
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25 October 2010 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A Canadian woman conceived through donor insemination has been allowed to bring legal action against the province of British Columbia to obtain information about her biological heritage, which may include the identity of the sperm donor involved....
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10 November 2008 - by Sarah Pritchard 
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...
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