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Call for adoption bill to address medical, identity issues

Irish Examiner, Friday, January 18, 2013
By Georgina O’Halloran

Thousands of people who were adopted at birth are being denied access to basic information about their family medical history due to an absence of legislation, according to experts.

Law lecturer at University College Cork, Dr Aisling Parkes, has called for the introduction of legislation to give people who were adopted an automatic right to non-identifying information regarding the health of their birth parents and their medical history. 

Legislation is also needed to give people the right to information regarding the identity of their biological parents, subject to a veto by the parents, Dr Parkes said. 

“In accordance with international standards, children have a right to know their backgrounds, root sand family trees. But, under current legislation it’s a closed adoption system, which protects the identity of the biological parents. It means people who are adopted have no automatic right to know where they come from... to know the names of their parents,” said Dr Parkes. 

“We’re living in a children’s rights era, but the law is clearly structured around the best interests of the biological parents,” she said. 

“It’s like the dark ages. We’re now in 2013 and it’s still like we’re back in 1952.” 

Dr Parkes said while the passing of the Children’s Referendum had heralded a number of long-awaited changes in adoption law, others were badly needed. 

She called for the issues surrounding medical history and identity to be addressed in the Adoption Bill, which is currently being drafted. 

In the UK, adopted children have an automatic right to their original birth certificate once they reach the age of 18, she said. 

Dr Parkes was among a number of speakers who addressed a seminar on adoption law at UCC, which was chaired by expert on child protection Geoffrey Shannon. 

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“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage, to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning . . . and the most disquieting loneliness." 

Alex Haley, Author of Roots 





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