The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has recommended that parents
of donor-conceived children are best placed to tell them about their biological
origins, but should not be mandated to do so.
In a report on the ethical aspects of information sharing in donor conception, it concludes that openness with children about their
conception contributes to their well-being and the quality of family relationships. The
Government should play an active role in providing support to promote the
welfare of those involved in donor conception, but must not unreasonably interfere with the
interests of others.
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'.
The report said there is evidence that children who discover
their donor-conceived origins in late adolescence or adulthood are more likely
to be distressed and suggests the optimal time to inform children is in their
preschool years. However, evidence also shows that families who do not tell
function well up to early adolescence and the report says there is little evidence, at present, of how donor-conceived
families function in late adolescence and adult life.
include that counselling should be 'routinely' offered to parents and donors,
and that donor-conceived children should be supported when they apply to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for identifying information about their donor.
It also recommended that the HFEA and the Donor Conceived
Register should launch a public information campaign to inform pre-2005 donors
that it is possible to re-register to be identifiable.
Under the current UK law, donor-conceived children can seek identifying
information if their donor donated at a licensed fertility
clinic after 1 April 2005. In the report, the authors acknowledged that although there are many
interests at play in donor-conceived families, with some children believing they have a right to know details about their biological origins, a balance should be maintained.
'Families are not just about individuals - they are also
about relationships', said Dr Knight. 'What we have tried to do is to balance
out the views and interests of all those involved — donor-conceived people,
their parents, and donors'.
Professor Sheila McLean, chair of the HFEA's National
Donation Strategy Group, said that it welcomes the report's recommendations. 'We
recognise the importance of information to people affected by donation and one
of our tasks is to help donors provide better information about themselves for