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:

  1. For conceptions after 1st April 2006, clinics are only permitted to use the sperm or eggs from an identifiable donor.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.