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Ten years since the end of donor anonymity: what next?

16 November 2015
By Charles Lister
Chair of the National Gamete Donation Trust

GameteThe recent public event organised by the National Gamete Donation Trust (NGDT) and Progress Educational Trust (PET) 'Ten Years Since the End of Donor Anonymity: Have We Got It Right?' sparked a stimulating and emotive debate representing a broad spectrum of opinion about donor conception (see BioNews 827). Many issues were fiercely discussed among the panel and audience, which comprised donor-conceived adults, donors, recipients, researchers and fertility professionals. Although no decisions were reached, I think it's fair to say that there was an emerging consensus that much more needs to be done now to advance the needs of donor-conceived offspring, ensuring that those born after the end of anonymity have access to information about the nature of their conception and their genetic heritage. In short, as a sector, it was evident that we need to address 'telling and talking' as a matter of urgency.

It was apparent from the evening's discussion that while the removal of donor anonymity was generally welcomed, the release of donors' identities only means anything if donor-conceived children are aware of the circumstances of their conception. At present, whether an individual knows that they are donor conceived depends on the choices made by parents and would-be parents.

Given that many parents are still not actually telling their children about their origins, this deprives their donor-conceived children of, among other things, the opportunity to find out about their donor. In turn, as we heard from the experiences shared by donor-conceived adults at the event, this can have immense implications.

'Telling and talking' raises a number of important questions. How do we tell and talk to children about their conception and genetic origins? When should children be told? What is the best way of telling and talking? What mechanisms should be put into place to ensure telling and talking is addressed? What follow-up action can and should be taken to ensure children have actually been told?

Following the event, the NGDT moved quickly to take steps to progress the matter. Our advisory council, which includes representatives from across the sector, met the following day and discussed what can and should be done to encourage parental telling and talking.

While we didn't reach any decision as to the best way forward, we did agree that the fertility sector needs to take further responsibility for ensuring that we foster an environment in which parental telling and talking becomes the norm. All donor-conceived children need to know of the circumstances of their conception and have access to information abouttheir gamete and embryo donors. How that is best achieved will require further discussion and consultation, drawing together professionals from across the industry, but also listening carefully to the voices of donor-conceived adults, donors and recipients.

We organised the event with PET because we think these issues are vitally important. However, we recognise that because of funding challenges we're not the right party to drive this issue. While the NGDT will do all that we can, the fertility sector as a whole needs to take swift action to ensure that the needs of donor-conceived offspring are at the forefront of gamete-donation treatment policy, guidelines and decision making.

14 December 2015 - by Susan Tranfield-Thomas 
'Is nowhere a donor-conception free zone?' asks the eponymous hero, 11-year-old Archie Nolan, as his quest to establish the meaning of 'family' in the context of donor conception leads him to ask more and more questions about origins, genetics and the intricacies of relationships in 21st century Britain...
30 November 2015 - by Pod Academy 
If you missed '10 Years Since the End of Donor Anonymity: Have We Got It Right?', a debate organised by the Progress Educational Trust (PET) in partnership with the National Gamete Donation Trust, then you are in luck. This podcast, produced by Pod Academy, captures some of the highlights from the debate....
30 November 2015 - by Nina Barnsley, Jennie Hunt and Julia Feast OBE 
The resounding message that came from the recent PET/NGDT event was that more needs to be done to support parents of donor-conceived children in telling them about their origins...
9 November 2015 - by Arit Udoh 
'The kids are not alright.' 'Current legislation needs to do more to protect the rights of donor-conceived children.' These were some of the comments made by donor-conceived adults who attended a recent Progress Educational Trust/National Gamete Donation Trust event...
19 October 2015 - by Sarah Norcross 
The Progress Educational Trust and the National Gamete Donation Trust are organising a joint event to mark 10 years since the end of donor anonymity in the UK...
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...
29 July 2013 - by Sarah Norcross 
Given that the Progress Educational Trust (PET) has just completed a project on gamete donation I was more than intrigued about this debate, but was left disappointed...
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