Access to identifying information for donor-conceived people
Victoria may soon introduce laws that permit all people conceived by donor material to access identifying information about their donor parent.
Historically, the law in relation to donor-conceived people erred in favour of the donor's right to privacy. However, the relevant legislation has been repeatedly amended since the late 1980's, to reflect growing community recognition of a donor-conceived person's right to know his or her biological heritage.
Previously, a donor-conceived person's right to obtain information about their parentage was determined by the donation date of the donor's genetic material, and whether the donor parent consented to the release of their information. Those conceived from gametes prior to 1988 were unable to access any identifying information unless both parents registered their details at the time of donation, and provided their consent to that information being released. Those conceived from donated gametes after that year could only obtain identifying information about their donor parent with the donor's consent.
The Victorian Government amended the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 (Vic), effective 29 June 2015, and the changes mean that all donor-conceived people can now apply to obtain identifying information about their biological donor parent. If contact details can be ascertained, then the donor will be contacted and asked to provide their consent.
In its discussion paper, 'A Right to Know your Identity', the Victorian government has recently proposed further amendments, which would provide donor-conceived people the right to access identifying information about their donors, irrespective of when they were born and, importantly, irrespective of whether the donor consents to the release of their personal information.
Critics of the proposed amendments argue that these changes will involve the retrospective release of identifying information about donors in circumstances where many donors would have donated genetic material under the assurance that they would remain anonymous.
In an effort to ensure that there is no undue interference in the lives of donors, the Victorian government is also proposing the introduction of a 'contact preference' service. This would allow the donor and donor-conceived person the option of nominating a preferred form of contact.
The Victorian government has invited interested parties to make submissions on its discussion paper prior to 4 September 2015.
Julia Dickson, Lawyer - Family & Relationship Law
Liz Kofoed, Lawyer - Family & Relationship Law