Donor-conceived children and the law

 

Sir, – The Irish Fertility Society (IFS) has serious concerns about aspects of the Children and Family Relationships Act (2015), which was referred to in Kevin O’Sullivan’s article on anonymous gamete donation (“Anonymous sperm and eggs to be banned by autumn”, News, July 8th).

We are convinced that parts of this Act, as well as the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill (2017) which is now in the legislative process, will have negative consequences for our patients and their children. We have called for appropriate legislation to protect our patients, particularly those involving less traditional family structures, for many years, so the overall thrust and intention of the legislation is very welcome. We have, however, flagged concern about some of the Acts’ negative implications with various ministers for health, and are therefore astonished at Simon Harris’s statement that the use of anonymous donors will be banned.

There is no donor bank in Ireland. There are currently no donors that meet the requirements of the 2015 Act. No foreign donors have consented to their contact details being submitted to a register in Ireland (that does not yet exist) and there is no regulatory authority to manage it. We do not need a register to manage the records of all fertility treatments involving third-party gametes. Every fertility clinic in Ireland is licensed by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA ) and inspected according to EU legislation, which compels the clinics to maintain all relevant records for 30 years. Information is available to all donor- conceived children, or their parents, upon request. This is handled in a professional context, including a counselling- mediated approach.

To be clear – IFS members will always facilitate the provision of information to donor-conceived offspring. The status of donors being anonymous or open to future contact is a separate issue, and we support the use of open donors. We now find that parts two and three of the 2015 Act are like a sledgehammer being used to crack a nut that is already open.

Instead of the careful approach to handling requests for information as outlined above, the Act will result in the following scenario: a donor-conceived child, on reaching 18 and applying for a birth certificate, will receive, possibly for the first time, unsolicited information that they are donor-conceived. No counselling, no supporting information, no clinic involvement. This is unprecedented in the world, and the impact on the families involved could be catastrophic.

We in the IFS-affiliated clinics are not prepared to submit information which will identify our patients to the kind of register which is proposed. It is inappropriate and an invasion of the privacy of a couple or individual undertaking fertility treatment.

We have repeatedly offered to engage with the Department of Health to create structures that benefit families, not cause them harm.

This is a complex area of medical science which requires robust legislation to support and protect those who need to avail of treatment to help them create a family, and the practitioners that provide that care.

The Assisted Human Reproduction Bill of 2017 has many features that will provide for this but there are details that require further debate and revision. We again call on the Minister and members of the Oireachtas to re-consider the two Acts and their implementation. The Irish Fertility Society represents healthcare professionals working in the majority of fertility clinics in Ireland and we are advocating for our patients in ensuring they are not negatively impacted by inappropriate laws. – Yours, etc,

JENNY CLOHERTY,

Honorary President,

Irish Fertility Society,

Rahoon,

Galway.