New rights for children of sperm donors

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The Independent Online

Children born through artificial insemination are expected to receive information about their biological fathers for the first time under changes stemming from a ministerial review of policy.

Children born through artificial insemination are expected to receive information about their biological fathers for the first time under changes stemming from a ministerial review of policy.

They are likely to gain the right to know where the sperm was donated as well as limited information on the geneaology of their father.

Senior Whitehall sources say the Government may release the medical history of donors and their ethnic backgrounds to help children satisfy questions about their identity. Ministers will also consider allowing children born using artificial insemination to obtain information about the father's inherited medical traits.

But they have ruled out disclosing names of men who donated sperm and government sources say they will continue to protect their identity.

The Government fears that revealing men's names would discourage future donors, who are currently protected by strict confidentiality, from coming forward. It also wants to prevent fathers being pursued by dozens of children, conceived using their donated sperm, who want personal contact and financial support.

The review of the law will be regarded as a breakthrough by groups that have been fighting to help clinic-conceived children gain details of their geneaology.

But senior doctors and infertility support groups have warned that giving clinics the right to release information about donors without their consent would infringe their rights. However, they concede the law could be changed to apply to future donors if they are informed that anonymous details may be released in future.

The move comes as the Government faces a challenge to the legality of its policy on sperm donation. A case under the European Convention on Human Rights is to test rules preventing disclosure of information on sperm donors

The civil rights organisation Liberty believes the ban breaches Article 8 of the Convention, which upholds the right to respect for private and family life.

The legal case is being brought on behalf of brother and sister Adam and Joanna Rose, and other adults who were artificially conceived at the Harley Clinic in London.

Yesterday, Mr Rose, 34, said he felt he was missing "50 per cent of my genetic identity". He said he hoped a review of the law would help future generations. But he had little hope of obtaining records about his father because they had probably been scrapped.

He said: "I have been told that I have no right to information about myself. When you are told that you don't have a right to any information whatsoever it's like saying that you have no right to your own genetic heritage."

Government sources said: "We are not talking about releasing names but we understand that people will be curious about their ethnic background and any genetic traits they could inherit."