The UK’s fertility regulator is “urging egg and sperm donors to update their contact details to avoid disappointing their offspring”, as new data shows around 30 donor conceived young people will become eligible to find their donor when they turn 18, later this year.
The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) issues the call to anyone who donated sperm or eggs after 1st April 2005, as it prepares to support the first people affected by the historic changes to donor anonymity law.
The changes made it possible for most people conceived from egg, sperm or embryo donations made after 1st April 2005 – and after they turn 18 – to access their donor’s full name, date of birth and their last known address. The first people will become eligible to apply to the HFEA for this information in October.
The HFEA is the independent regulator of fertility treatment and human embryo research in the UK. Since donor anonymity law changed in 2005, it also offers the Opening the Register (OTR) service, through which it releases specific categories of information to donor conceived people, their parents or their donors.
Rachel Cutting, Director of Information & Compliance at the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA), said:
“The decision to abolish donor anonymity in 2005 has given donor conceived individuals – providing they have been told they are donor conceived – an opportunity to learn about where they came from, and we know from studies that this has a positive impact on them. By the end of 2024, around 766 donor conceived people will be able to request identifying information about their donor from the HFEA and by 2030, this rises to 11,427.
As we approach this landmark moment, we have concerns that not all donor conceived individuals who apply for this information will be able to reach their donor. That’s why we are urging donors to get in touch with their clinic to update their contact details. Not only will this enable the HFEA to notify donors of information requests from offspring, it reduces the risk of information being sent to a historic address. It also means donor conceived individuals can be reassured that they have their donor’s most up-to-date information.”
The new analysis from the HFEA also shows the proportion of children born using anonymous donors after the law changed.
Around 1,800 babies have been born using an anonymous donor since 1st April 2005. In the year the law changed – 1st April to 31 December 2005 – about three quarters of the 105 babies conceived and born through donation, were from anonymous donations (72%).
The number of babies conceived and born through anonymous donation steadily decreases to 24 of 2,430 births (1%) by 2012.
The HFEA say there are three main reasons why not all donor conceived individuals born after the law changed will be able to apply for identifiable information about their donor:
- There was a transitional period in which clinics were able to use any anonymous donations they had already collected
- Patients could use donor eggs, sperm or embryos if they wanted a full genetic sibling for a child they already had
- Patients who created and stored embryos using an anonymous donor prior to the law change could use the material after the law came into force
“Our data shows that 28% of people conceived in 2005, the year donor anonymity law changed, will be able to receive identifying information about their donor when they turn 18 this year. This is because of a transitional window which allowed clinics to use anonymous donations already in storage up until 31 March 2006. The main reason an anonymous donor was used after 2006, was where the patient had a child previously using this donor and wanted a full genetic sibling.”
Anonymous donors who registered before April 2005 can contact the HFEA to re-register so they are identifiable. Donors who do not want to re-register as identifiable can still update their non-identifying personal information such as their good will message or pen portrait (a message a donor can leave for the donor recipient or any donor conceived child born as a result of their donation), giving donor conceived children much needed insight into where they came from.
Minister for Women’s Health Strategy, Maria Caulfield said:
“I am delighted that donor conceived individuals turning 18 will now have the chance to find out who their donor is. Everyone should have the right to know about their genetic history.
To ensure we don’t disappoint those looking for answers, I would urge all those who have donated after 1 April 2005 to consider updating their contact details with the HFEA as soon as possible.”
The HFEA is the UK’s independent regulator of fertility treatment and research using human embryos. It ensures everyone accessing fertility treatment receives high quality care and supports patients by providing free, clear, and impartial information about fertility treatment, clinics and egg, sperm and embryo donation. Find out more at www.hfea.gov.uk.