Bioethics News

Donor anonymity is dead

Guaranteeing the anonymity of sperm and egg donors is a controversial topic. On the one hand children may want to connect with their biological parents; on the other, the parents may have agreed to donate only because the transaction was anonymous.

However, as three British academics point out in an article in the journal Human Reproduction, the walls of secrecy have already been breached and there is nothing to protect any more. The growing popularity of personal genetic testing means that it is becoming possible for children to track down their genetic parents without any assistance from the records of IVF clinics. There are already a number of websites which help people connect with half-siblings fathered by anonymous sperm donors. As the databanks grow, it will be possible to link them to the father as well.

“All parties concerned must be aware that, in 2016,donor anonymity does not exist,” write the authors.

“Whether they are donating in a country that uses anonymous donation or not, donors should be informed that their anonymity is not guaranteed. They may be traced if their DNA, or that of a relative, is added to a database. There will also need to be consideration of any children that a donor might have, as they might find out their parent was a donor from such publicly available information.

“Together, these concerns highlight the importance of a wide-ranging societal conversation about how to best safeguard and promote the interests of donor-conceived offspring and protect the rights of donors. Specifically, there is a need to ensure that new genetic information is communicated in a way that promotes both the safety and privacy needs of offspring and donors.”

This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.