Parents needn't tell donor children their origins' says leading British think-tank

Xavier Symons
20 Apr 2013
Reproduced with Permission

Should parents be required to tell donor children of their origins? An influential British think-tank says No. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics this week published a report that 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 this difficult decision.

The Council's report rejects the idea that the state should intervene to ensure that people find out, for example through a mandatory declaration on the person's birth certificate. Rather, it should the parents, with the support of health care counsellors, who decide to inform their children.

"Exceptional cases aside… it is not the role of the state to take action to ensure that a person knows they are donor-conceived," the report states.

"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", said Dr Rhona Knight, a GP and the chair of the Nuffield enquiry. "We don't agree that the decision of what and when to tell should be taken completely out of parents' hands".

The finding of the council contrasts with the view of many interest groups around the world lobbying for stricter government regulation. The Nuffield enquiry began in early 2012, and involved health-care experts from several leading British universities.

Currently in the UK, approved sperm donors are not listed as parents on birth certificates, nor is there any indication that that the child was conceived via sperm donation. Either one parent name will be left blank, or the partner of the woman inseminated will be named. Parents are at no stage required to tell their children that they are donor conceived.