Understanding What the Law Says About Donor Conception

People contemplating donor procedures have to provide a lot of information about themselves so that in the future any child born as a result of a donation can find out about his or her origins. Federal law is silent on the issue of donor conception, and the amount and type of information required in relation to donor conception varies between the states and territories. Rules sometimes change, so if you're considering using donor gametes or embryos, you need to find out what the current situation is in the state where you plan to have treatment.

Some states keep central registers of donors and recipients, which enable children to find out information about their donor when they grow up and donors and recipients to access information about each other. In states that don't have central donor registers, the relevant clinic can help donors, recipients and donor-conceived children to find out information about each other.

1 Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and Tasmania: The National Health and Medical Research Council's Ethical Guidelines on the Use of Assisted Reproductive Technology in Clinical Practice and Research guide clinics in these states regarding the information about donors, recipients and offspring that IVF clinics need to keep on record. The guidelines stipulate that clinics mustn't use gametes from donors who don't consent to identifying information about them being released because donor-conceived children have the right to know their genetic parents.

1 New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia: These states have central registers with information that IVF clinics are obliged to provide about the identity of donors, recipients and children born from donor procedures. The information can be accessed by a child once he or she turns 18.

1 Northern Territory and South Australia: These states have no central registers but clinics have to keep records of donors, recipients and any offspring, and donor-conceived young adults are able to find out non-identifying information about their donor, such as hair and eye colour, blood group, height, education and interest. Identifying information is available to the donor-conceived young adult only if the donor agrees.

The amount of information that donors, parents and donor-conceived children can access depends on in which state or territory the donor procedure took place. In general, donors, parents and donor-conceived children can access non-identifying information about each other from the clinic where the treatment took place. For example, donors may be interested to know how many families have benefited from their donations and how many children have been born. Parents and donor-conceived children may want to know how old the donor is, whether other families have children from the same donor, what the donor's interests are, his or her hair and eye colour and so on.

Where information is available, donor-conceived children can access identifying information about the donor when they turn 18 years of age. From some registers the donor and the parents can also receive identifying information about each other, but only if the person to whom the information pertains gives consent.

tRER Gametes and embryos must be donated for altruistic reasons only: Donors can't receive any payment or inducement for making a donation, although they can be reimbursed for any expenses they incur in relation to the donation, such as travelling expenses.

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