Sperm donor children have right to know fathers, says Warnock

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The Independent Online

Children born through artificial insemination of donated sperm should have the right to trace their fathers, Baroness Warnock, the moral philosopher who was instrumental in establishing the donor's right to anonymity, is expected to say this week.

Eighteen years after her investigation established the right to donor anonymity Lady Warnock will tell a conference in London that she "got it wrong" and now wants to see the fertility laws changed to favour those wishing to discover their true parentage.

The 1984 Warnock inquiry led to the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, which guaranteed to protect sperm donors' identities. At the time, there were fears that breaching this anonymity might lead to a drop in the number of men willing to donate sperm to infertile couples.

But Lady Warnock will tell a conference organised by Progar, (Project Group on Assisted Reproduction) a branch of the British Association of Social Workers, that she has changed her mind. "I will be saying, 'I think I got it wrong'. I would now advocate removing anonymity from donors," she said. In countries where the anonymity of donors has been removed she says the fall in donations has been so small "it isn't really a consideration".

Since the 1990 Act, and the establishment of the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority the following year, there have been about 18,000 births through donor insemination (DI) of sperm aggs or embryos.

As the number of people born thanks to DI has increased, so has the pressure to grant them rights to learn more about their biological parentage. The Department of Health issued a consultation document on the subject last year but has made no recommendations so far.

Lady Warnock's comments will add to the calls for people to be given the right to know their genetic inheritance and the possibility that they have inherited disorders. The baroness said donors' offspring should be given the same "right to know" as adopted children, who can trace their biological parents. "If anonymity is removed, people have got to tell their children," Lady Warnock added. "To bring up a child under a false impression is a moral wrong to that child."