The Australian government passed a bill last year as an amendment to the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2015 to end donor anonymity (see BioNews 841). The bill, which took effect on the 1 March 2017, makes Australia the world's first country to end donor anonymity completely.
Anonymous donation has not been permitted in Victoria since 1998 but, under the new legislation, donor-conceived people born using gametes anonymously donated prior to 1998 will be able to apply for identifiable information about their donor – even if they had not consented to being identifiable.
Additionally, the donor information will now be made accessible to donor-conceived children and their parents through the central donor registry. Previously, this information was inaccessible until the donor-conceived person reached the age of 18.
Currently, the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority holds the details of around 3200 sperm and egg donors, including people who made donations before 1998. Donor-conceived people or their parents will be able to make applications to this authority to gather information concerning donor name, date of birth, ethnicity, genetic conditions and donor code (used to find siblings who share the same donor).
However, a right to information about a donor does not mean a right to contact that person or establish a relationship. Both donors and donor-conceived individuals will be able to state their contact preferences when applying to the central register, which determine if and how they may be contacted. Failure to respect these wishes will incur a penalty.
An editorial in The Age states that the newspaper is 'generally opposed to legislation that has a retrospective effect, but we feel in this case it is justified; the rights of the child have been appropriately updated without compromising the rights of the donor'.
Anonymity for gamete donors varies across Australian states, with Western Australia and New South Wales also holding state-run registers.
'[The] days of anonymity of sperm donation [are] over,' said Adnan Catakovic, scientific and managing director at City Fertility. Speaking to the Herald Sun, he gave assurances that the law changes had not affected donor numbers and that his Victorian database had more than 100 sperm donors registered.