If you are considering providing your eggs or sperm to someone who is not your partner to help them conceive, then it is important to be clear where you stand legally and to also be aware as to what you can do to protect yourself.
If you are contemplating donation through a UK based licensed clinic, the clinic will have to follow rules set down by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which provides a licence to all clinics. Information about you, as a donor, will be kept on the HFEA’s register and you have a right, as a donor, to ask whether any children were conceived with your eggs or sperm, although you do not have any right to contact them.
If you wish to become a sperm donor and donate via home insemination, there are no rules on the amount of times you may donate. No register is kept as it is an informal agreement so, before agreeing to be a donor, it is worthwhile thinking about the legal implications and the use of a Donor Agreement.
In the case where you decide to become a donor for a relative or a friend, simply to assist them and with no intentions of having involvement in the child’s life, then the laws on this are more complex. It is important to decide what you intend to accept from such an agreement and the same for the intended parent(s). It is sensible to consider the merit of a pre-conception agreement to cement what the parties have agreed. By undertaking this, you are preventing any further issues concerning child maintenance and contact arrangements for the future. It sets the boundaries between all the parties involved and prevents any conflict or future court applications for contact and/or child maintenance.
The preparation of an agreement can assist everyone involved. For more information, or some preliminary, confidential advice please contact Anne-Marie Hamer, our Fertility & Surrogacy expert.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority regulates all UK donor conception treatments that take place at licensed clinics. The clinic must comply with the HFEA’s Code of Practice.
How do clinics operate?
The activities conducted by all licensed clinics are recorded in a register by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, and this has been in place since 1st August 1991.
Any child conceived through a clinic, and over the age of 16, can enquire with the HFEA as to whether they were conceived with donated sperm or eggs via the clinic. The child can also ask the clinic whether anyone they intend to marry, have a civil partnership with, or have an intimate relationship with, is related to them.
The donor conceived child, at the age of 16, can ask for non-identifying information about their donor, such as the donor’s appearance and occupation. They can also ask for more information, such as the donor’s name and last known address. However, this information is only available to the donor-conceived child once they are over the age of 18 years.
In 2005, the law on donor anonymity changed, so whether that information will be available depends on the following dates of conception:
- For conceptions after 1st April 2006, clinics are only permitted to use the sperm or eggs from an identifiable donor.
- For conceptions between 1st April 2005 and 31st March 2006, some donors are identifiable, some are not. As a result of a change in the rules on identification, the records may not reveal the identity.
- For conceptions between 1st August 1991 and 31st March 2005, the majority of donors will be anonymous, unless they specified a wish to be identified.
Since 1991, UK law has allowed up to ten families use the same donor, so the donor conceived children may have a number of genetically related siblings. A child conceived via a donor arrangement can, from the age of 16, consult the register to ascertain how many donor-conceived siblings there are. Also, from the age of 18, a donor-conceived child can be put in contact with any related siblings, and can request to be put on the Donor Sibling Register.
A donor can find out whether their donation resulted in a birth and they are permitted to ask the sex of the child. However, they are not permitted to know any further identifying information.
Fertility clinics play an important role in modern day family life. It is by raising awareness of their use and importance that we can understand more on their operation.
For more information, or some preliminary, confidential advice please contact Anne-Marie Hamer, our Fertility & Surrogacy expert.
With the wonderful news of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are expecting a child in the spring it signifies the every-growing trend that couples are choosing to have children later in life.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (2016) show that the conception rates amongst the 30-34 age group increased by 14.16% between 2006 and 2016, whereas the 20-24 age group saw a decrease of 15.7%. The conception rate for the under 20s dropped by 45.59% but for the over 40s it increased by 10.32% over the same ten-year period. The fertility rate of women aged 40 and over has now more than trebled since 1981. The figures show that even between 2015 and 2016, the conception rates fell amongst every age group except for the 35-39 age range which saw an increase of 1.9%. These results were published on 27th March 2018.
What does this mean for couples choosing to have children much later in life, and what does it also mean for the fertility sector in the UK?
Couples who choose to have children much later in life may well consider all their options first and plan better for the financial cost of bringing up those children. Couples would benefit from undertaking their research at the earliest opportunity and may even consider the freezing of the woman’s eggs, if necessary. It is well known that a woman’s fertility declines after the age of 35 so planning is vital.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is the UK’s independent regulator of fertility treatment and regulates all fertility clinics and providers in the UK. As of March 2017, there were 132 licensed clinics and laboratories in the UK, with the majority providing specialist treatment services covering IVF and embryology. The largest offerings of clinics in the UK are centred in London and the South East. If the trends continue as they are, with women choosing to have children much later in life, then we may well see an increase in the number of clinics across the country, together with the number of family lawyers offering fertility and surrogacy advice.
Having spoken to the HFEA, it is clear that there is an ongoing demand for family lawyers to offer the services of fertility and surrogacy.
For more information, or a preliminary, confidential discussion contact our Fertility expert Anne-Marie Hamer.