A regional appeals court in Hamm, Germany has ruled that a 22-year-old woman conceived via an anonymous sperm donor has a legal right to find out the identity of her biological father. It is not clear what effect the ruling will have in practice, however, as the records may have already been destroyed.
Named only as Sarah P, the court considered that the woman's right to know her biological father's identity took priority over the confidentiality awarded to the donor. 'The interest of the plaintiff in ascertaining her parentage is assessed to be higher than the interests of the defence and the right to a nondisclosure of donor information', newspaper Deutsche Welle reported the court as saying.
Sarah P found out four years ago that the man who raised her was not her biological father but she was denied access to any identifying information on the sperm donor by a lower court. However, despite her appeal being successful, Sarah P might still be unable to learn the identity of her biological father as the Essen-based reproductive specialist doctor who performed the procedure said he may no longer have the information. If he does, he must provide it, the court said.
In 1989 Germany's constitutional court ruled that access to genetic heritage was a personal right. However, rules to determine how donor details should be documented and preserved were never drawn up until 2007, when a court ruled that donation records must be kept for 30 years. Speaking to Der Spiegel, Dr Andreas Hammel, a gynaecologist from Erlangen, Germany explained the 2007 ruling was not to allow donor children to find their biological fathers, but to screen for hereditary and infectious diseases.
The case has prompted calls for legal certainty in this area. 'The government has to introduce a register in which all the data of sperm donors and the children is kept permanently. At the moment, these documents are kept by the doctors who are responsible for the treatment', Dr Hammel, told Deutsche Welle. Around 100,000 people in Germany are thought to have been conceived via anonymous donors.
In related news, Germany's upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, has approved a regulatory framework to carry out PGD. A ban on the procedure was declared unlawful by the Federal Court of Justice in 2010 and the German parliament passed legislation to permit PGD the following year (reported in BioNews 615).