Sperm donors will not be able to remain anonymous

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Eilish O'Regan

People who donate sperm, eggs or an embryo for use by infertile couples will no longer be able to remain anonymous and will have to provide personal information for a register.

The disclosure will be enforced under the Children and Family Relationships Act, and will mean children conceived in this way will know both their parents.

The plan is to set up a register with all the individual donor's details, according to the Department of Health.

Some fertility clinics here objected to the provision, saying it would lead to a fall-off in donors.

However, the Department of Health said it is needed to vindicate the rights of donor-conceived children to access information on their genetic heritage.

The provisions are expected to come into force later this year.

Health Minister Simon Harris said he got the go-ahead at the Cabinet meeting this week to allow for the start of these provisions in the autumn.

He said the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 was enacted to modernise family law in a way that is inclusive of and sensitive to the reality of contemporary family life in Ireland and to meet the needs of children living in diverse family types.

"The technology of assisted human reproduction has created a new reality and Irish law must adapt to reflect these changes," said Mr Harris.

The law brings "much-needed clarity in this area and seeks to vindicate the rights of the most vulnerable individuals in a donor-assisted human reproduction procedure, the children".

In 2006, the Irish-owned Waterstone Clinic, previously known as the Cork Fertility Clinic, was the first clinic in Ireland to start an in-house egg donation programme.

Around eight to 12 couples take part in the in-house programme every year.

The clinic also facilitates around 200 couples who travel abroad every year for donor egg treatment.

Around 3,000 people from Ireland are going abroad for fertility treatment a year.

Some have multiple births but they are not receiving aftercare. Cost and access to donor eggs are among the reasons people go abroad.

Separate legislation is planned covering a wide range of fertility treatments, as well as surrogacy.

Irish fertility experts said assisted human reproduction is one of the most rapidly evolving areas of medicine and science.

It is important that any legislation introduced is not overly prescriptive and that it does not prevent future adaptation to new medical developments, they said.

The proposed legislation in this area suggests a person can donate gametes (eggs or sperm) at the age of 18 but cannot receive treatment until the age of 21.

These ages should be reversed, they said.

The proposed legislation will allow for changes in regards to posthumous assisted reproduction.

The proposal allows this only for women. This is considered discriminatory to men.

A surviving male partner should be allowed to use deceased female partner's oocytes or their joint embryos, if she consented to this prior to her death, they urged.