Press Release: Canada Must Protect the Rights and Health of Donor Conceived People

DCAC: Canada Must Protect the Rights and Health of Donor Conceived People

Toronto, 21 November 2018 – The Donor Conceived Alliance of Canada (DCAC), which represents the thousands of Canadians created every year from anonymously donated sperm and eggs, calls on Health Canada and the Canadian government to revise the Assisted Human Reproduction Act and its regulations in a way that protects the rights and health of people conceived using third-party gametes.

Although Health Canada acknowledges that there are ‘important health and safety gaps in assisted human reproduction oversight’, its proposals fail to address the most basic health issues facing the people created through assisted reproduction.

On donor anonymity, the regulatory proposals aim to “…maintain donor anonymity for persons who choose to donate on the basis of anonymity[1].” Anonymous donation violates essential human rights, notably the right to know one’s biological origins as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is just one example of how Canada is lagging behind in its duty to respect and enforce children’s rights[2].

Instead of deliberately denying people knowledge of their genetic background, Health Canada should follow the lead of countries including the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, New Zealand and the UK where anonymous donation now is prohibited. This would give donor-conceived people equal rights to people conceived ‘normally’ and would be an honest acknowledgement that, in an era of massively popular at-home DNA testing, anonymity can no longer be guaranteed.

The DCAC also finds Health Canada’s proposal for a “10-year retention requirement for records related to consent” woefully inadequate. Any new legislation needs to ensure that complete records are preserved for decades (as is standard in many other countries), and that these records can be accessed by the donor-conceived person directly.

Currently, because of anonymity and lack of medical records, donor-conceived people have no way of accessing their full medical history. They, therefore, miss critical (and potentially lifesaving) screening for hereditary diseases such as cancer or genetic disorders.

Finally, the DCAC calls on Health Canada to include in their regulations a legal limit for the number of offspring which can be created from a single donor. Currently, there are no limits (only recommendations) and donor-conceived people can end up with dozens or even hundreds of siblings. This is not only disconcerting. It also raises the risk of accidental incest.

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