Fertility patient organisations grapple with implications of High Court donor conception ruling

NGA has been contacted by UK patient organisations trying to clarify the implications of the High Court’s ruling, which has allowed two sperm donors to argue in court that they should have rights of contact with their biological children. NGA has been representing the lesbian mothers in this case.

The ruling received a lot of press attention yesterday (including on the front page of the Daily Mail, and in the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent and BBC). Natalie spoke to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the British Fertility Society, the National Gamete Donation Trust and the Donor Conception Network – all seeking further information about what to say to patients, donors and donor conceived families who were contacting them.

The HFEA and the BFS have issued press statements in response to the ruling.

We thought it would be helpful to provide a clear summary of what the ruling means for these organisations and others concerned about this:

* The ruling only gave the two donors the right to argue their case in court. It is not yet know whether they will be given any rights of contact with the children.

* The reason for the decision was very fact specific, a result of the fact that the donors were known to the lesbian mothers and had contact with the children in their early months before relationships broke down. The court was satisfied, on the facts, that the donors had sufficient connection with the children to at least justify their cases being heard in court.

* The ruling is therefore exceptionally unlikely to apply to donors who have had no contact with the child – for example unknown donors through licensed clinics.

* However, the ruling could apply to other types of known donors, including known sperm or egg donors who have donated through a licensed clinic, if they can demonstrate sufficient connection with the child in practice. Although in this case conception took place outside a licensed clinic, the law which provided that these men were ‘not to be treated as the father for any purpose’ is the same law which excludes the status of other types of egg and sperm donors.

* The ruling does not in any way affect donors’ responsibilities – it does not make it possible to hold a donor legally or financially responsible for a child they help conceive.

For further information on the case (including the judgment) see our blog. You can also follow us on Twitter for updates.

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