March 5, 2024

Gamete donor registry opens in UK

Sperm vials in IVF clinicThe UK is making it easier for people conceived with donor eggs and sperm to contact their genetic parents. It has set up a voluntary register which will bring parents and children together (after they have turned 18) — if they want to make contact. The government wants to bring the laws for donor-conceived children in line with the laws for adopted children. It will also be possible to contact half-siblings as well.

The register does not guarantee that children will be able to find parents. Parents are allowed limit the amount of personal information their children can access.

The government has also agreed to end sperm donor anonymity from 2005, meaning that children conceived next year will be able to contact their fathers in 2023. A BBC survey of fertility clinics found that 48% of clinics which recruit donors have low stocks of sperm and 65% are worried about recruiting donors in the future.

A man born in the 1950s from donor insemination has written a poignant account in the London Sunday Times of his search for his relatives. Barry Stevens learned that he was a sperm donor baby when he was 18, but for many years he made no effort to contact his father. In the course of tracking him down, he found that he was one of 500 children born through the work of UK sperm donation pioneer Dr Mary Barton. He has now discovered two half-siblings, but not his father. “I do think wanting to know where you come from is a right,” he says. “And although, unlike many people in my position, I’m not opposed to donor insemination, the doctors who advocated it as a problem-free solution to infertility were mistaken.”