Skip to 0 minutes and 0 secondsNow as far as, anonymity is concerned there isn't any wiggle room in the for gametes and embryos used in the United Kingdom, and clinics are obliged legally to have identifiable donors. Which means that when the child reaches the age of consent, 18 or marries at 16 then they will be able to find identifiable information about their donor. Now as a clinician when this was first introduced we were worried about there being a decrease in numbers of donors and how this would affect the donor bank but actually, I kind of think we are looking at this from the wrong side. We should just be looking at this very simply. Not from the parents side and for the availability of donor side.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 secondsBut we should be looking at this purely and simply at the side of the child who is being created from, from these eggs, sperm or embryos. And that is the most important thing. Now I think most of us actually if asked, and we were that child, would want the ability to be able to, if we wished, to track down our genetic heritage either for medical reasons or from wanting to know what our heritage is. And when we look at it from that side I think the decision is quite clear. I understand why parents maybe slightly ambivalent about it but I think this, although it is important to them, it is really about the child.

Skip to 1 minute and 34 secondsWhen I am discussing this, I use examples where I’ve seen happy families. And I always say “I’ve never seen a family, I’ve never heard of a family that have had significant problems later. But I suppose maybe I wouldn’t do.” But I then just say “please go and watch the film ‘Secrets and Lies’, Mike Leigh, because we know that family stuff comes out in the wash over years, decades or even generations. And secrets that are hidden can cause significant long term, relationship and family problems.”

Skip to 2 minutes and 18 secondsSo my feeling is always to think about things in the slightly wider context, and to be open and then I say well, if you are unhappy with the child ever finding out, when the child is a teenager it will be like the rest of us saying, “well why did you have me, I didn’t want to be born, you are not my parents anyway.” And I say every teenager says that, whether they are genetically or biologically related to you or not.

The child's perspective

As a Consultant in Reproductive Medicine, Dr Gidon Lieberman spends his day speaking with prospective parents about their choices. His role is to advise but also to listen, and to guide them in the choices they make.

Having practised fertility medicine for over two decades, he has seen how the field has changed in response to new legislation and new technological advances.

Like many others, Dr Lieberman was concerned about the impact of the removal of donor anonymity in the UK in 2005. He worried that it might lead to a reduction in the numbers of donors and that it might change the expectations of prospective parents and healthcare professionals.

In fact, he believes that the change has been a good one, if only for the fact that it brings to the fore the interests of the child. If it were you, Dr Lieberman suggests, wouldn’t you want to know?

For your discussion: What do you think? Would you have wanted to know if you were donor-conceived? If you are donor-conceived, and you feel comfortable sharing, what are your feelings about this?

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This video is from the free online course:

Making Babies in the 21st Century

UCL (University College London)