University of Calgary

Scholars ask: Do you have the right to know your origins?

UToday HomeFebruary 25, 2013

By Marta Cyperling

Contributors to the book hope it becomes a resource for legislators, policy makers and healthcare workers. Photo by Marta CyperlingContributors to the book hope it becomes a resource for legislators, policy makers and healthcare workers. Photo by Marta CyperlingAssisted human reproduction is a growing business. Using donated sperm, eggs or embryos to create offspring is a great medical advance — but legally and ethically, it also creates complex issues.

At least 500 babies in Canada are created each year using donated sperm, eggs and embryos, and in Canada it is still legal for donors to remain anonymous. Should people created by donated sperm, eggs or embryos have the right to learn the identities of their genetic parents and their medical, social and cultural history?

A new book addresses that question from the perspective of donor-conceived people. The Right to Know One’s Origins is a collection of essays from ethicists, legal scholars, heath scientists and donor-conceived people that argues there should be a legal right to identity disclosure.

“The voices of intended parents, physicians, laboratory scientists and pharmaceutical companies are often heard in this debate. The voices of children conceived through donors are often not heard, yet ultimately they are most affected for the longest time,” says Juliet Guichon, a University of Calgary legal scholar whose idea it was to create the book and is also a contributor to the book.

“The book recommends a ban on donor anonymity because anonymity is not in the best interest of the child.”

The idea for the book came to Guichon after she learned of the plight of those conceived by donors. One such person is Olivia Pratten, who was born in 1982 after her parents — facing infertility issues — used a sperm donor. After exhausting other avenues, Pratten decided, in 2008, to file a class action litigation to learn the identity of her biological father.

“Anonymity is not a right, privacy is. (The donor) has the right that I not interfere in his life, ever ask him for money, or make a claim on his estate. But it is absurd to cite privacy as a reason to deny me knowledge of his identity, which is all I want,” she writes in a personal essay featured in the book.

Contributors to the book hope it becomes a resource for legislators, policy makers and healthcare workers.

Several members of the University of Calgary’s Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute contributed to the book including Ian Mitchell, Stacey Page, Ben Gibbard, Julie Lauzon and Juliet Guichon.

 

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