BASW's Project Group on Assisted Reproduction (PROGAR) is proudly celebrating the tenth anniversary of the lifting of donor anonymity for all sperm, egg and embryo donors whose donation is used to create a new life.
Dr Marilyn Crawshaw, Chair of PROGAR, said: “We applaud the foresight of the UK in implementing legislation ten years ago to enhance the well-being of donor-conceived people and their families through lifting donor anonymity. We look forward to further such constructive developments in the years ahead so that the lifelong needs of those affected by donor conception and surrogacy are better met.”
PROGAR campaigned for many years for greater openness in the field of assisted conception and welcomed the lifting of anonymity in April 2005. This crucial step towards greater transparency in donor conception recognised the importance for the lifelong health and welfare of donor-conceived people and their families of knowing the identity of and information about the donor.
The last ten years have seen a growth in the numbers of men and women coming forward as donors in the UK. Numbers approaching the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for information from their Register of Information have also seen an increase, supporting our view of the importance to those directly affected – donor-conceived people, parents and donors – of having access to information.
BASW Chief Executive Bridget Robb also affirmed the importance of this decision: “As the largest social work organisation in the UK, we know the importance of children being able to access genetic and biographical information about their origins. While donor conception medical procedures may enable conception to occur, social workers know that this is just the start of the journey. Openness, social acceptance and family support are then needed to promote the well-being of all members of donor-conceived families.”
Dr Crawshaw believes much still remains to be done, commenting "More prospective parents are now seeking treatment overseas in jurisdictions where donors remain anonymous, fuelled by such drivers as lower costs and better customer care. The consequence is a growing number of donor-conceived individuals unable to access information about their donor. Individuals born as a result of domestic or overseas surrogacy arrangements who are subject to a Parental Order (transferring legal parenthood to commissioning parents) can learn the identity of their surrogate, but if an egg donor was used, access to information about her will be far more difficult to obtain – impossible in some cases.
"Furthermore, although it is thought that there are now increased numbers of UK parents telling their donor-conceived children about their origins (and hence their rights to access information from the HFEA Register of Information, if they were conceived in UK clinics) some still do not. More needs to be done to support and encourage such parents to be open with their children through, for example, ready access to dedicated support groups and discussion forums where research knowledge and personal experience can be shared alongside advice about ‘how to tell’.
"Overhauling the birth registration system so that it makes clear that legal parents are not always the same as genetic parents would also be an important step forward", she said.