Many of us have at least heard of controversies over open vs. closed adoption laws, and the efforts by many to make adoption more open so children can find out about their biological parents. One of many arguments for open adoptions relates to health – children may want or need to find out about their family history and risk for medical conditions that may affect them.
Until recently, I hadn’t heard that the same debate is raging with regards to “donor offspring” – people conceived as the result of sperm, egg, or embryo donation. It makes sense – many of the same issues are raised in a donor situation, including what hereditary medical issues are important to watch out for.
Last week, the Supreme Court of British Columbia (Canada) ruled in favor of journalist Olivia Pratten, who was conceived using sperm from an anonymous donor and filed suit against the BC government after finding out that the records had been destroyed. The Pratten case centered around two claims – that protecting the rights of adoptees but not donor offspring to learn about their biological parents is discrimination, and that the right to liberty and security of the person guarantees a constitutional right to know one’s origins and genetic heritage.
Pratten won the case, with the judge ruling that donor offspring are entitled to the same rights as adoptees and granting a permanent injunction in British Columbia prohibiting the destruction of donor records including those for anonymous donations of sperm, eggs and embryos. This is the first such North American ruling banning donor anonymity; reportedly 11 jurisdictions elsewhere already banned anonymous gamete donation, including seven in Europe, three in Australia, and one in New Zealand.
A few related resources that may be of interest:
- Feb 2011 Newsweek coverage of Pratten’s story and the case
- International Donor Offspring Alliance, which advocates for rights of donor-conceived persons
- Anonymous US, focused on “reproductive technologies and family fragmentation”
- The Donor Sibling Registry, which helps connect genetically related persons conceived through donations