Children born through donor assistance should be told as
early as possible about how they were conceived, a major conference on donor
conception heard last week.
Eric Blyth, professor of social work at
Huddersfield University, told the conference that children should be told.
Often the children had a suspicion that they were in some way different and
that something was being withheld from them. He said that a lack of information
can lead to frustration and identity problems.
Lady Warnock told delegates that the Human
Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 was a positive encouragement for children
born through donor-assisted conception to be deceived by their parents.
Warnock, who was author of the 1984 report that
led to the 1990 act, said she had changed her mind about anonymity. The report
had plumped for secrecy believing that the alternative would lead to a fall in
donors. Now experience elsewhere showed that would not be the case. She also
said that "justice" demanded that children have knowledge of their
She also believed that lifting anonymity would
take the burden of guilt and anxiety from the shoulders of the parents who
bring the children up.
Julia Feast, author and project leader at the
Children’s Society, said that fears about ending anonymity for sperm donors
were challenged by evidence from adoption.
There had been fears that adoptive parents
would be rejected or become estranged after the adoptive children searched and
found their natural parents. But she pointed out that research suggested rifts
with adopted parents did not occur and that adopted people who knew who their
birth parents were felt more "at peace" with a better sense of
Derek Morgan, professor of health care law and
jurisprudence at Cardiff University, claimed that the anonymity clauses of the
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act were in breach of the European
Convention on Human Rights.
He said that the convention’s statements on
private life and family would rule out anonymity even before the act was
He had no doubt that the end of anonymity was
in sight in the UK.
The conference was organised by Progar, an
alliance of fertility and social care organisations.