Defending ‘secrecy’: why removing donor anonymity may not be a good idea

10 November 2014

Should children conceived through the use of donated gametes have access to information identifying their donors when they reach maturity? The UK Government is expected soon to decide that, from now on, the answer to this question is to be 'yes'. But is this a good idea? Even though there are sound reasons for relaxing absolute secrecy in the use of donor gametes, donor identification represents an unnecessary step. And it's a bad idea whether or not identifying donors will lead to a decrease the numbers of people donating gametes. Why do people want to remove anonymity? Those lobbying for its removal give several reasons, such as the right of children to know about their genetic heritage taking priority over donor's rights. Knowledge of genetic parentage is also significant to our sense of personal identity, including our cultural and ethnic ties. Additionally, the importance of openness for the welfare of children dictates a need for identifying information. Against this, supporters of donor anonymity highlight the significance of donors' rights to confidentiality and privacy. Anonymity also ensures donors donate for 'good' reasons anonymous donors are more likely to harbour an altruistic desire to assist people to have children, rather than a narcissistic wish to increase one's genetic offspring. Moreover, allowing or compelling a visible third party's entry into donor insemination (DI) families could lead to disruption and hurt on all sides. Weighing up these competing claims is difficult. Whose rights are paramount? How can the dynamics of each unique family be accounted for? These are thorny issues, but respecting the rights of those involved does not necessarily entail the removal of donor anonymity. However, total secrecy is also unwarranted and so some change to current regulations is justified.