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Sperm donor anonymity in question in British Columbia court case

20 February 2012
Appeared in BioNews 645

Lawyers representing British Columbia's (BC) 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.

The lawsuit (reported in BioNews 608) was originally launched by a donor conceived woman, Olivia Pratten, who filed an affidavit arguing that the adoption laws discriminated against donor conceived people as they couldn't access similar information.

In May last year, BC Supreme Court judge Elaine Adair sided with Pratten and deemed the BC Adoption Act unconstitutional. In her judgment Madam Justice Adair said that people deprived of information regarding their genetic backgrounds suffer psychological harm. She granted an injunction to prohibit the destruction and disposal of donor records and gave the BC government 15 months to amend the Act to take into account the judgment.

The BC government is now contesting the ruling. Representing the government, Leah Greathead told the court that as BC adoption law is targeted specifically at adoptive children it does not address - and does not violate - the rights of donor conceived people.

Joseph Arvay, representing Ms Pratten, countered that 'the legislative scheme is discriminatory when it provides benefit to adoptive people ... because they have real needs [to know their genetic heritage and medical history] and deny benefits to those who have the same needs'.

Ms Greathead also told the court that there had been a marked improvement in the attitudes of sperm banks to this issue over the last 30 years and that many now allowed for donor conceived people to find out about their biological fathers.

But in an interview outside the court during a break in proceedings, Ms Pratten told the Vancouver Sun that 'just because people are voluntarily doing some things in certain cases, doesn't mean anyone is obligated to. The thing is, there is a complete void in the law. That's why this [case] has come forward'.

The Supreme Court's earlier ruling was not retroactive and information regarding sperm and egg donations carried out prior to the judgment would not be made available without the donor's consent.

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 once they were 18 years old. Other countries, including Sweden, Holland, and parts of Australia no longer allow donor anonymity.

Anonymity of egg or sperm donors at centre of appeal
Globe and Mail |  14 February 2012
Argument over sperm donor anonymity heats up in B.C. court |  15 February 2012
Sperm donor identity debate in D.C. focuses on children's rights
Calgary Herald |  15 February 2012
Who's your Daddy? Donors kids want to know
The Province |  15 February 2012
6 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...
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....
3 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....
18 June 2012 - by James Brooks 
A French court has effectively reaffirmed the country's policy of gamete donor anonymity by rejecting a donor-conceived woman's demand for information on her biological father...
2 April 2012 - by Rosemary Paxman 
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 donors...
8 August 2011 - by Professor Naomi Cahn and Wendy Kramer 
The largest study to date of donor-conceived people has just been published in Human Reproduction. Its findings show the need to address two different effects of anonymous donating: first, when should children find out that their parents used donor sperm or eggs; and second, should children ever find out the identity of their donors?...
11 July 2011 - by Vince Londini 
In December, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) struck down most of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act (AHRA) of 2004. This ruling invalidated almost all Canadian federal regulations covering the many sticky areas of emerging Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) practice...
11 July 2011 - by Professor Eric Blyth 
It is not so long since I applauded the decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia (BC) for promoting the disclosure of the identity of gamete and embryo donors to their offspring [1]. News that the BC Attorney-General is appealing the judgment to the federal Supreme Court indicates that my enthusiasm was a case of premature elation [2]. The good news for those of us who believe that non-anonymous donation is the only ethical form of gamete and embryo donation is that if the federal Su...
6 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)...
23 May 2011 - by Sarah Pritchard 
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....
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