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The legal implications of egg and sperm donation

While egg and sperm donation can be life-changing for individuals and couples longing to become parents, it's essential to navigate the legalities with clarity and understanding. This guide explains some of the key legal implications including whether an egg donor can claim custody and who has parental rights of any child born.

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Written by Apricity Team
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    Sperm and egg donation offers a pathway to parenthood for many individuals and couples facing fertility challenges. However, alongside the altruistic act of donation, it's important to understand the legal implications that accompany such generosity. From anonymity to parental responsibilities, this guide explains the legal implications of egg and sperm donation in the UK.

    Is egg and sperm donation anonymous?

    This depends on the sperm or egg donation process used. Donor eggs or sperm can come from a licensed clinic or can be from a known donor such as a friend or family member. In instances of known donation, as the name implies, an egg or sperm donor will not be anonymous as the individual or couple having fertility treatment will already know them personally.

    In the UK, donating eggs or sperm through a licensed clinic is heavily regulated by the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA). The original Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 granted egg and sperm donors full, continuing anonymity.

    However, since April 1, 2005, donors have had to agree to their identity being recorded on the Donor Conceived Register. This means that while sperm and egg donors are anonymous at the time of donation, donor-conceived individuals can obtain details about their donor, such as their name, date of birth and last known address once they reach 18 years of age.

    Does an egg or sperm donor have any legal obligation to any child born?

    Legally, egg and sperm donors in the UK are not considered parents to any resulting children. The responsibility for the child lies solely with the intended parents. Donors are typically absolved of any legal obligations, including financial support or parental rights.

    The exception to this is children conceived through a private sperm donor arrangement, i.e. not via treatment at a licensed clinic. The law about legal parenthood in these cases is not as straightforward. The woman who gives birth to the child will be considered their legal mother. However, the sperm donor could be considered the legal father, even if the mother has a male partner.

    Can an egg or sperm donor be asked to support a child financially?

    No, egg or sperm donors are not legally obligated to provide financial support for any resulting child. HFEA regulations ensure that donors are not financially responsible for any offspring born as a result of their donation.

    Who is the legal mother of a donor egg baby?

    In cases of egg donation, the woman who carries and gives birth to the child is considered the legal mother, regardless of genetic relation. This legal status is unaffected by the contribution of the egg donor.

    Are egg or sperm donors named on a child’s birth certificate?

    No, egg or sperm donors are not named on a child's birth certificate. Birth certificates typically only list the names of the intended parents, reflecting their legal status as the child's parents.

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    Can an egg donor claim custody of a child?

    Egg donors have no legal rights to claim custody of any resulting child. Custody and parental rights belong exclusively to the intended parents, as outlined in the legal agreements and regulations set out by the HFEA that govern assisted reproduction including IVF with donor eggs.

    Can an egg or sperm donor be traced by a child?

    The law surrounding donor anonymity has changed since the HFEA was established. People conceived from egg or sperm donations given before the HFEA was set up on August 1, 1991, are unable to obtain any information about their donor through official channels.

    Any child conceived from eggs or sperm donated between August 1, 1991, and March 31, 2005, has a legal right to ask the HFEA for information about their donor. However, this does not include their identity. At age 16, donor-conceived children can obtain the following details about their donor, if they provided them:

    • Physical description (height, weight, eye, and hair colour)

    • Year and country of birth

    • Ethnicity

    •  Whether they had any children at the time of their donation

    • Any additional non-identifying information such as their job, religion, interests, and a brief self-description

    Egg and sperm donors who donated during this period now have the option to remove their anonymity if they want to. If they choose to do this, any children conceived from their donation may be able to get their contact details once they turn 18.

    For egg and sperm donors who donated after April 1, 2005, the law is slightly different. At the age of 16, donor-conceived children can obtain the following information about their donor:

    • A physical description (height, weight, eye, hair and skin colour)

    •  The year and country of their birth 

    • Their and their parent(s)'s ethnicity 

    • Whether they had any children at the time of donation, how many and their gender

    • Their marital status 

    •  Any relevant personal and family medical history 

    • Any additional information provided such as their job, religion, skills, interests, reasons for donating, a goodwill message, and a personal description.

    Once a donor-conceived child reaches the age of 18, they can also find out their donor’s full name, date and town of birth, and most recent address.

    It’s important to note that while donor-conceived individuals have the right to this information about their donor, their donor has no obligation to communicate with the person or have a relationship with them should they make contact.

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    Donor fertility treatment with Apricity

    At Apricity, we help many people realise their dreams of becoming parents through fertility treatment with donated eggs or sperm. For IUI or IVF with donor sperm, we partner with UK-based sperm bank Semovo and accept donor sperm from a selection of other reputable sperm banks too.

    For IVF with donor eggs, we have a thorough donor screening process and use a bespoke egg donor matching process that not only looks at physical attributes but also takes into account the jobs, hobbies, interests, values, humour and education of our donors.

    We are there for you at every stage of the IVF donor eggs process. You can reach out to your Apricity care team seven days a week should you have any questions, and our app gives you a wealth of expert advice at your fingertips. In addition, we provide unlimited counselling for egg donor recipients and offer six months access to Paths to Parenthub when you sign up with us to find a donor.

    To find out more about IVF with donor eggs, or to register your interest in treatment, speak to an Apricity advisor today.

    Written by Apricity Team

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    Written by our group of fertility experts and doctors consultants

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