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New law in Australian state ends donor anonymity

29 February 2016
Appeared in BioNews 841

The Australian state of Victoria has passed a bill allowing all people conceived through egg or sperm donation to apply for identifying information about their biological parents.

The bill, which is an amendment to the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2015, will come into force from March 2017.

Currently, only people born from eggs or sperm donated after 1998 can obtain access to identifying information about their donor, including their name and date of birth, once they reach the age of 18. Those born from donor conception before this date can only access such information with the donor's consent. The amendment means that all donor-conceived people will soon be able to apply for identifying information, regardless of when the donations were made or whether the donor consents.

Donors will also be obliged to reveal their heritage and any information they may have about genetic disorders. However, both donors and donor conceived people will be able to manage their contact preferences and can refuse contact altogether if they choose. There will be fines of up to A$7500 for a breach of a contact veto, which will be a criminal offence.

'We believe all donor-conceived people should have the right to know about their genetic heritage, no matter when their donors donated,' said Victorian Minister for Health Jill Hennessy.

'This information can make a huge difference to the lives of donor-conceived Victorians. If this information is available, it shouldn't be kept from them.'

However, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has been opposed to releasing identifying information without donors' consent.

'These patients underwent a medical procedure – donating sperm and eggs – and were given explicit and implicit assurances that their donations would be anonymous,' AMA Victorian president Tony Bartone told The Age. 'The government has now overruled these assurances. All patients must feel confident that when they see a doctor and undergo a medical procedure their privacy will be upheld, both now and in the future.'

The bill has become known as Narelle's Law, after Narelle Grech, who died in 2013 from hereditary bowel cancer, and who had spent 15 years searching for her donor.

The bill has been widely welcomed by those who represent donor-conceived people.

'It's really important for children conceived through a donor to be able to access that information about themselves,' the founder of Surrogacy Australia, Sam Everingham, told the Guardian.

'Yes, it's a tricky thing, given people may have donated on the assumption that they would remain completely anonymous. But the culture in Australia these days is all about the rights of the child, and I think that is really important.'
Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment Bill 2015
Parliament of Victoria |  23 February 2016
New Law Gives All Donor-Conceived Victorians The Right To Know Their Heritage
Premier of Victoria (press release) |  23 February 2016
Sperm and egg donor babies to unlock genetic heritage
Herald Sun |  26 February 2016
Victorian egg and sperm donors to lose anonymity under new legislation
The Guardian |  24 February 2016
Victorian sperm donors have lost their anonymity
The Age |  24 February 2016
1 October 2018 - by Dr Helen Robertson 
A shortage of sperm donors has forced a Japanese hospital to stop offering couples a certain type of fertility treatment...
6 March 2017 - by Rikita Patel 
People conceived using donor eggs or sperm now have a legal right to identifiable information about their biological parents in Victoria, Australia...
21 March 2016 - by Professor Eric Blyth and Dr Marilyn Crawshaw 
The Government of Victoria should be applauded for confronting a dilemma that so many others have avoided...
14 March 2016 - by Professor Guido Pennings 
The State Legislature of Victoria has decided unilaterally to break their agreements with the sperm donors who donated before 1998 and will reveal their identity. It is difficult to imagine a measure that shows more disrespect for both donors and recipients...
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