In a world first, a parliamentary committee in the Australian state of Victoria has called for the records of all sperm donors to be made available to donor-conceived adults.
As it now stands, people conceived during and after 1998 have unconditional access to identifying information. People conceived between 1988 and 1997 can access information if the donor agrees. But people conceived before 1988 have no rights at all.
Donors before 1988 were promised complete anonymity, that their identity and medical history would be denied to any offspring, but health issues are behind the committee’s recommendation that this promise be broken.
29-year-old Narelle Grech, who spoke to ABC Australia, has no right to know who her donor is, but she has a compelling argument why the precedent of anonymity should be broken.
She has stage four bowel cancer, and is expected to live “a few years at best.”
She says that when she was diagnosed she was asked, “Is there a history of bowel cancer in your family?” She has learned that she has eight half siblings, all fathered by the same donor who may be carrying the same fatal gene.
“All of them are 25 and older and they need to be screened and I’ve got no way of warning them.”
“I’d hate to kind of bring about a lot of difficulty for them, but I do believe that knowing the truth is really important for me. Even though it’s been a difficult journey, the truth really does set you free.”
There are tests she could have from about 15, if she had known she had a potential risk of bowel cancer, which could possibly have stopped its spread.
Victorian MP and a member of the committee, Clem Newton-Brown, said:
“Grech’s illness was something which really touched the committee.”
“After hearing all the evidence, it became apparent that what is really most important here is the rights of the children.”
Doctors told the committee that the proposed change would destroy the “sacrosanct” patient-doctor relationship.
Donors told the inquiry anonymously they were deeply opposed to the prospect of change. One said it would be extremely distressing for his wife and their children and he feared and dreaded contact.
But, says Newton-Brown, “when you weigh that against the – what these donor conceived children are going through – it pales into insignificance.”
If the recommendations of the committee are accepted, donors will still be able to decline a request for personal contact. There will probably be a public consultation before legislation is passed.
· The Victorian Parliament’s Law Reform Committee report.
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