The Donor Conceived Alliance of Canada wants to see policy that prioritizes the health, well-being and best interests of donor-conceived people (DCP). Specifically, we want to see the following:
1. Ban anonymous gamete donation. Require all donors to be “ID release” from birth.
By the numbers: 88% of We Are Donor Conceived (WADC) survey respondents believe it is a basic human right to know the identity of both biological parents. 81% of WADC survey respondents support abolishing anonymous gamete donation and 67% believe the donor’s identity should be available to the donor conceived person from birth.
We believe it is wrong to purposely create people who are denied knowledge about their medical, cultural and genetic identity. Furthermore, we believe it is wrong for a government, doctor, private business or organization to purposely withhold information about a person’s identity from that person. While it is true that there are other situations in life that result in a person not knowing both biological parents, anonymous donor conception is the only instance where people are INTENTIONALLY created in a way that deprives them from having the option of knowing the donating biological parent. Some donor conceived people will be satisfied without knowing both biological parents, but we believe that all DCP should, at the minimum, have the option to know their donating biological parent.
“Open ID” or “ID release” donors are increasingly common but in most places the information is not made available until the DCP turns 18 (if at all), and being denied that information during a DCP’s formative years is unjust. In 2018 Germany declared that all DCP have the right to know the identity of their biological parent(s) from birth, and as of 2022 the German courts declared that a biological mother is obligated to disclose the identity of the child’s biological father to the child, including in cases of donor conception and adoption. Austria allows DCP to access such information at the age of 13. Ultimately we believe that all donors should be Open ID from birth.
For many DCP, the use of known donors is considered ideal, in order to allow the DCP to grow up with a connection to their donating biological parent, and to be able to grow up with any half-siblings. Just as parents can love more than two children, children are able to love more than two parents! We understand that the choice of using a known donor is sometimes worrisome for intended parents, who may be concerned that having an additional adult figure in their lives could make things “too complicated.” We hear from some parents that they may worry about the other biological parent wanting to have custody, or wanting to be “too involved” in their child’s life. To avoid that potential scenario there should be more supporting legal frameworks (e.g. legal contracts) and counselling services to support directed donation, such as through established fertility clinics.
2. Set a limit of < 10 half-siblings created per donor
Many fertility clinics have guidelines for the number of half-siblings that can be created per donor, but these guidelines are rarely followed, are often too lenient, or are not able to be enforced when a single person donates their gametes to multiple clinics.
Some donor-conceived people have dozens or hundreds or half-siblings. Based on the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s guidelines, there could be over 10,000 half-siblings for a single donor in the United States. Many countries including New Zealand, Britain, and the Netherlands, already restrict the number of children born to one gamete donor, but Canada has no limits.
Discovering that one has dozens, and potentially hundreds of half-siblings can feel dehumanizing. Many donor-conceived people also want to be able to have relationships with their half-siblings once they’ve been found, but making and maintaining dozens of relationships with half-siblings can be overwhelming, or simply not feasible. We have heard from many DCP who have been in the same social circles as their half-siblings, or have lived on the same street, been on the same sports team, or been in the same school. Accidental incest is a real possibility between half-siblings, and even more so between first cousins.
Donor-conceived people want to see a conservative limit on the number of people that can be created per donor. Respondents to the 2018 WADC survey said the number of half-siblings should be capped at under five people (selected by 48% of respondents) or between 6 and 10 people (selected by 42% of respondents).
- Sperm donation laws by region from the Washington Post
3. Maintain the ban on the commercialization of surrogacy and payment of gamete donation, or institute a ban where is does not currently exist
We want the Government of Canada to maintain criminal penalties for violations of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act (S.C. 2004, c. 2) including paying gamete donors. Many prominent ethicist, researchers and lawyers support the current ban on payment (e.g. Paying Surrogates, Sperm and Egg donors goes against Canadian Values; Stop the Commercialization of Surrogacy). We believe that when payment is involved in the exchange of eggs, sperm, or surrogacy services, it commodifies the people that are produced. Similarly, the World Health Organization recommends a ban on the payment for blood and organs in order to protect the quality of donations and to prevent exploitation of donors.
Paying donors creates a marketplace where donors become vendors, parents become customers, and donor-conceived individuals become products. This is a dangerous practice and contrary to Canadian values.” – Erin Jackson, donor-conceived adult and creator of the advocacy group We are Donor Conceived.
4. Require donors to keep their medical records updated
The health of DCP depends on having updated medical information from donors. There have been numerous cases of DCP becoming ill with conditions that they inherited from their donating biological parent, most famously that of Australian DCP Narelle Grech, who died at the age of 30 from heritable bowel cancer. Her tragic experience propelled new legislation to protect DCP in the state of Victoria, Aus.
Donors typically sell their gametes when they’re young and healthy, before serious health concerns become apparent. Very few sperm or egg banks verify donor medical records either.
Donors must be required to keep their health records up to date, and for these records to be kept in a centralized facility that can be accessed by donor-conceived people.
5. Require donor conception records to be kept for 100 years
AHRA regulations published in Canada Gazette 153, no. 13, require fertility establishments to only keep donor sperm or egg records for a mere 10 years. This is woefully inadequate for ensuring the protection of the health and well-being of donor-conceived people.
By contrast, Germany requires records to be kept for 110 years, and Canadian adoption records are required to be retained for 100 years. We believe that 100 years is an appropriate target for record keeping.
Donor conception records should also be centralized in the event that establishments cease operating, and to facilitate access to records by donor-conceived people.