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Donor anonymity and the regulation of egg donation

Children born as a result of egg (or sperm) donation now have the right at age 18 to know the identity of their donor.

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Legislation or regulations governing assisted reproduction are rarely consistent. They can vary greatly from one country to the next. This is especially so for egg (and sperm) donation, which in the UK is regulated by a 2005 update to the HFEA Act. 

What changed in 2005 was the freedom of donors to remain anonymous. At the age of 18, those who have been born using egg donation will have the right to ask the HFEA for information about their donor. Fertility clinics must now ask all their donors for identifying information.

 This decision was made in order to uphold the child's right to a 'personal identity'. The withholding of the option to meet their biological parent has been identified as one that is not in the best interest of the child and that child's mental health.

 Why you may not get this benefit overseas

There is a trend throughout Europe for countries to adopt similar 'identifying' regulations, for the sake of the recipient and donor.

 However, there are still many countries where donors must remain anonymous. This may be one reason why those seeking donor eggs may choose to remain in the UK for treatment and donor searching.

 Non-anonymity is a vital step the UK has taken to protect the interests of donor-conceived children. "Critics of anonymity policies claim that a vital interest in strong family relationships is thwarted by the contribution of such policies to the secrecy that often accompanies donor conception." Inmaculada de Melo-Martín's 2017 study published on Reproductive Biomedicine & Society Online observes. Those seeking donor eggs within the UK enjoy the benefit of the rights of their future children being protected.

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Non-anonymity is a vital step the UK has taken to protect the interests of donor-conceived children.

Compensation under the HFEA

The HFEA, faced with a shortage of donor eggs several years ago, agreed to increase compensation in 2012. Compensation to egg donors is £750 per cycle of donation.

In announcing the one-off fee, the HFEA was at pains to remove any hint of payment inducement from the new policy. The payment, said the HFEA, was strictly compensation, set 'not in terms of crude sums but in terms of the value of the donation...without attracting those who are merely financially motivated.'

How times are changing

Removing anonymity from donors has also been encouraged by developments in 'home' genetic testing. From 23andMe to MyHeritage, the market is overtaken by the fascination with ancestry and unknown blood relatives.

The identity of an egg donor, whether protected by law or not - can be detected from a DNA saliva test and reference to the many worldwide DNA databanks.

Many now believe that the age of anonymity for egg donors is finally over.

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