Thanks to a legal change in the United Kingdom, sperm and egg donors could have their identities revealed to their biological children starting this year.
Adults who were conceived by donors after April 1, 2005, will be allowed to learn about their biological parents. Though this law technically went into effect in 2005, the first round of children born after that change will turn 18 this year.
They can request the donor’s name, last known address, their year and country of birth, and medical history. They can also look up any known step-siblings they may have.
The View From Sweden
Sweden passed a law in 1984 giving donor-conceived children the right to have information about the donor when they turn 18.
The medical university Karolinska Institutet surveyed 210 egg and sperm donors five to eight years after their donation. Results showed that a majority of them had a positive attitude about the idea of being contacted by their genetic offspring, and very few said they would prefer not to be contacted.
As for couples who received donations, another study found that about 90% of them “supported disclosure and honesty” in telling their kids that they were donor-conceived.
Between a quarter and 40% of the couples said they wanted additional counseling information about parenthood after the donation treatment.
A number of other nations like Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Portugal followed Sweden’s lead in outlawing donor anonymity. (In the United States, a patchwork of laws differ from state to state.)
Zeynep Gurtin, a professor at University College London, wrote in The Guardian that the legal shift “marks a new era” in attitudes towards donor conception over the last three decades.
Donor-conceived children in the U.K. have tripled since 2009, and now make up make up one in 170 births.
“It is only right that donor-conceived people will now, for the first time, have a choice about how much they want to know about their genetic origins and the people who helped to create them,” Gurtin wrote.
- The rise of consumer DNA services like 23andMe and Ancestry.com has challenged the concept of donor anonymity, “giving customers the genetic clues they need to identify biological parents on their own,” Stat News reported. It’s caused donor rates to drop at some clinics in the U.S., as potential donors know they may not be truly anonymous, despite the laws in their area.