The Human Fertilisation and Embrology Authority is the UK's independent regulator overseeing the use of gametes and embryos in fertility treatment and research.
The HFEA licenses fertility clinics and centres carrying out in vitro fertilisation (IVF), other assisted conception procedures and human embryo research.
Anonymity and the HFEA register
The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) keeps a confidential register of information about donors, patients and treatments. The register was set up on 1st August 1991 and contains information concerning children conceived from licensed treatments from that date onwards.
From 2008 people aged 16+ contemplating marriage, or those over 18 who ask the HFEA, will be told whether or not they were born as a result of licensed assisted conception treatment and if so, whether they are related to the person they want to marry. As the law now stands (ie, as at April 2008) for children conceived before April 1st 2005 that is the only information that will be disclosed by the HFEA.
From 1st April 2005, the HFEA has, however, required all gamete donors to provide identifying information. This information will enable the HFEA to inform a donor in the future of any enquiries made by a child that has been born following a donation when that child reaches the age of 18. The HFEA will not disclose any information without first contacting the donor.
HFEA to help donor-conceived siblings contact each other
Donor conceived people will be able to get in touch with others who share the same donor, their genetic siblings, through a new service launched by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in April 2010.
Around 2,000 people are born each year as a result of the donation of sperm, eggs or embryos. Since the launch of the HFEA in August 1991 around 36,000 donor conceived people have been born following treatment at a HFEA licensed centre.
From April, anyone conceived through donor conception treatment, and who has turned 18 years old, will be able to join Donor Sibling Link (DSL), to find out if there are other people who share the same donor. If there are, they will be able to choose to exchange their contact details if they wish to.
DSL will only put people in touch with each other if they consent to sharing their contact information. Only donor-conceived siblings will be able to share information, it will not be available to others including their own parents or other family members. Donor conceived people will also be able to opt out at any point.
Pr of Lisa Jardine, Chair of the HFEA, said:
“Donor conceived people all have their own individual views on this. Many I know put huge value on knowing they have donor conceived siblings. Sharing your experiences with someone in the same position as you can be very worthwhile and people will have their own reasons for wanting to make contact. The great thing is they now have the opportunity to do so, and the choice will be theirs.”
Olivia Montuschi, co-founder of the Donor Conception Network said:
“Our experience has shown that donor conceived young people are much more interested in half siblings than they are in their donor. We think that this is a wonderful service to help those people get in touch with each other. “