Donor conception: An ethical information-sharing guide

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The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has released a report that considers the interests of people affected by donor conception, including donor-conceived people, parents, donors, and all their wider family and social networks. The report says parents of donor-conceived children should be the ones to decide what to tell their children about their conception, but that they need more support in making and following through with this difficult decision.

What’s covered in the report?

The report focuses on issues of privacy, openness, and access to information, and the implications of each of these for the individuals, families and groups affected by donor conception. The report is mainly focused on donor conception in the UK. It covers information regarding:

  • The law related to donor conception and its practice, and how this relates to telling the child about their origins,
  • Considerations about the medical history of the donor,
  • Ethical considerations involved in sharing information concerning donor conception,
  • The responsibilities of parents of donor-conceived children,
  • The responsibilities of the state and healthcare professionals.

What do the experts say?

Dr Rhona Knight, a GP and the Chair of the Nuffield enquiry, said: “In recent years there has been a culture shift – advice from professionals has gone from the extreme of never telling, to always telling. We think it is usually better for children to be told, by their parents, about their donor conception, and if parents do decide to tell them then earlier is better.”

Who might the report help?

Donor conception affects many people in the UK, with around 1,500 children born each year following donor-assisted conception treatment in clinics, and more than 35,000 people conceived in this way since regulation was introduced in 1991. The report may be useful for those who are thinking about using donor insemination, families involved with donor insemination, donors and those working with people who are going through the donor insemination process.

The report is available for purchase.

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