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Gamete and embryo donation

Provides information for infertile couples about gamete and embryo donation services, and UK regulation.

What is gamete and embryo donation?

What is gamete and embryo donation?

Assisted conception techniques allows some couples who could not have their own child to do so. This may be done using donated eggs, sperm or embryos.

Donated eggs, if the woman is not producing eggs or at risk of passing on an inherited disease.

Donor sperm, if the husband or male partner is not producing sperm or at risk of passing on an inherited disease.

Donated embryos, when both partner is infertile but the woman is capable of carrying the baby to full term.

Sperm, egg and embryo donation are complex, ethical and legal issues. Some couples find the use of gamete and embryo donation unacceptable on cultural, religious or personal grounds. These views must be respected. Some countries allow all forms of gametes and embryo donation such as USA, Canada and United Kingdom. Others allow the use of donor sperm but forbid both egg and embryo donation such as Germany and Japan. Furthermore, some countries forbid all forms of gametes and embryo donations such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Italy and Austria. Psychological assessment by a qualified mental health professional is recommended for all gamete and embryo donation by the ASRM.

There is some evidence that pregnancies resulting from donated eggs, sperm and embryos have an increased incidence of complications in pregnancy, in particular hypertensive problems including pre-eclampsia. In addition, a significantly higher rate of hospitalisation of egg recipients immediately before delivery and during antenatal period, a significantly higher rate of caesarean section and admission of the baby to the Intensive Care Unit during the first few days of life after birth have also been reported.

Donation and the law

  • All donors are altruistic volunteers (no financial gains to the donor).
  • All prospective donors should be offered adequate counseling, but they are not obliged to accept it.
  • The woman receiving treatment and her husband or partner will be the legal parents.
  • It is a legal requirement that infertility centres must not provide a woman with treatment unless account has been taken of the welfare of any child who may be born as result of treatment.
  • On April 1st 2005 new regulations came into force in the UK that ended the anonymity of sperm, egg and embryo donors. The removal of donor anonymity was based on the principle that a child has the right to information about his or her genetic heritage. Countries such as Austria, Sweden, Norway, and Netherland, New Zealand have already enacted similar legislation.
  • Children born as a result of donated eggs, donor sperm or embryos, have the right at age 18 or earlier if contemplating marriage to obtain information about the donor. The new regulations surrounding information on donors will not be retrospective so any donors registered before April 1st 2005 will remain anonymous unless he or she chooses to re-register as an identifiable donor.
  • The human fertilization and embryology authority (HFEA) in the United Kingdom is required to keep on its register information about individuals who donate and the recipients.

What information can be provided if the donor last registered before 1st April 2005?

Non-identifiable information including the donors physical attributes, their year and country of birth, marital status, ethnic group, whether the donor was adopted, whether the donor had children and if so their sexes and number, as well as medical history and screening tests.

What information can be provided if the donor last registered after 1st April 2005?

In addition to the above, the donor name, address, date and place of birth .

Should parents tell donor conceived children of their genetic origin?

The number pf parents telling their children about their orign is rising and currently three out of four parents intend to tell their children. The Nuffiled Council on Bioethics reported that children conceived from donor egg or sperm or embryo should not have an automatic right to be told about their conception. However, the report advocate that is is usually bettter for children to be told by their parents, about their conception as early as possible because young children tend to accept the information more readily, whereas adolescents and young adults are more likely to be shocked or angry.