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Donor anonymity comes to an end in Victoria, Australia

6 March 2017
Appeared in BioNews 891

People conceived using donor eggs or sperm now have a legal right to identifiable information about their biological parents in Victoria, Australia.

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.

Victorian sperm and egg donors to lose anonymity
Herald Sun |  28 February 2017
Victoria's changes to laws on tracing sperm and egg donors a sensible evolution
The Age (commentary) |  2 March 2017
Victoria's world-first change to share sperm or egg donors' names with children
The Conversation |  28 March 2017
13 May 2019 - by Louise Johnson 
It has been over two years since world-first changes to donor conception laws were implemented in Victoria, Australia, allowing all donor-conceived people to learn their sperm or egg donor's identity...
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...
5 June 2017 - by Rikita Patel 
A donor-conceived Dutch woman, Emi Stikkelman, is the first to find her sperm donor using an American commercial DNA bank...
3 April 2017 - by Andrew Hellman and Professor Glenn Cohen 
Many children conceived using donor sperm or eggs want to know their biological parents. In the US, some clinics make the identity of the sperm donor available to a donor-conceived child at age 18. Most intending parents, though, choose sperm donation programs that do not reveal the identities of the sperm donors – so-called 'anonymous sperm donation'...
27 March 2017 - by Dr Petra Nordqvist and Hazel Burke 
Until twelve years ago, most people donating eggs or sperm via a UK clinic would be anonymous. In the eyes of the law, this donation was a generous gift that was handed over without continuing responsibilities or ties for the donor. In fact, continued involvement of the donor was usually discouraged...
3 October 2016 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
This collection of essays from leading lawyers, fertility professionals, social scientists, ethicists, and others documents the experiences of families engaging in assisted conception, adding to the growing body of empirical studies in this area...
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...
29 February 2016 - by Professor Sonia Allan and Damian Adams 
The state parliament of Victoria in Australia has passed legislation that will enable all donor-conceived people to receive identifying information about their sperm, oocyte, or embryo donor(s). The model adopted is a world first in its application to donor conception...
29 February 2016 - by Ayala Ochert 
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...
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