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Plan to ban anonymous donors 'will limit supply'

CARL O'BRIEN

Irish Times, Mon, Jan 30, 2012

PLANS TO ban the use of anonymous sperm or egg donations in Ireland will lead to fewer donors and an increase in the cost of assisted human reproduction, a conference heard at the weekend.

At present, the area of assisted human reproduction is not regulated in Ireland. An estimated 500 children are born here each year as a result of donor gametes which are mostly sourced from abroad.

However, the Government is planning to publish legislation which is likely to end the use of anonymous donor material, as is the case in the UK.

This follows the recommendations of the Commission on Assisted Human Reproductions, which has urged the Government to ensure that only sperm or egg donors who are willing to be identified should be used in Ireland.

At a conference to debate the issue at the Royal College of Surgeons at the weekend, Graham Coull, a laboratory director with the Sims clinic in Dublin, said banning anonymous donors would lead to higher costs.

“It will limit the supply of donors. Identifiable donors are up to 60 per cent more expensive than anonymous ones because there are fewer available,” he said.

“That will push the price of treatment up. Because there is no financial provision from the State, this could exclude many who can barely afford it now.”

However, Helen Browne, the chair of the National Infertility Support and Information Group, said it was in the best interests of children to be able to identify a donor in later life. She said many parents were receiving donor material from Spain – where anonymity of donors is enshrined in law – because there was a short waiting time rather than because of its laws over anonymity.

“From speaking to people in our group, we feel there should be a process like adoption so people know what’s involved and can consider ethical issues like telling their children and how to deal with challenges in the future.”

While there is no law on the use of donor sperm or eggs in Ireland, few people outside of families or close friends donate their genetic material, according to experts.

This may be down to legal uncertainty over the links between donors, recipient parents and children. Tony O’Connor, a senior counsel who has advised on several cases in this area, said that while legal contracts may be drawn up between a donor and a recipient, these provisions did not apply to a child.

In the absence of any legislation, he warned of potential complications when it comes to succession rights for donor-conceived children, given that our existing laws never envisaged these issues. “In adoption law, we have regulated this area. But there is no provision in legislation outside of that . . . the State is not owning up to its responsibilities,” he said.

2012 The Irish Times

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