16 May 2005
Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson announced government plans to remove the current right of sperm, egg and embryo donors to anonymity, with effect from April 2005 (see Department of Health press release). The announcement at the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA) annual conference today follows a two-year public consultation by the government on what information children conceived using donated sperm, eggs or embryos should be entitled to access. The present regulations, set out in the Human Fertility and Embryology Act of 1990, allow children to be told that they were conceived using donated material once they reach the age of eighteen, and allows the HFEA to check whether they are genetically related to prospective marriage partners. The 1990 Act will now be reviewed, and current regulations altered to allow children access to more information about biological donor parents, including their identity and personal details such as physical appearance, occupation and religion, once they reach eighteen. Donors will not be held to have any legal, moral or financial responsibility for children born following donation, nor will they be obliged to meet them. Donations prior to April 2005 will remain anonymous, so that the first children born following donation entitled to access the identity of the donor will be able to do so from 2023.
In a press release welcoming the announcement, HFEA chair Suzi Leather said: