Law on lifelong sperm donor anonymity to be debated

The discussion is to focus on whether sperm donors should have the right to stay anonymous for life, or whether the greater right belongs to the offspring themselves

Bioethics experts are to debate the legality of whether sperm donors have the right to remain anonymous for life, or whether offspring from donors have the right to know their genetic line.

From Thursday January 18, bioethics assembly Les États généraux de la bioéthique will convene on the issue and evaluate the current situation for the next six months, with a potential law on the question of anonymity expected to come into force early 2019, depending on talks.

The discussion is expected to focus on whether sperm donors should have the right to stay anonymous for life - even if their eventual offspring comes looking for them, or seeks to know if they have any hereditary medical conditions - or whether the greater right belongs to the offspring themselves to know about their own past.

The issue has been hotly debated in France, with news source FranceInfo today featuring the story of a 34-year-old man, Arthur Kermalvezen, who has been campaigning to allow children from sperm donors to know their medical and genetic history.

Himself the offspring of a sperm donor, Kermalvezen explains that in the absence of other sources of information, he felt forced to take a genetic test, “which is [still] illegal in France” in a bid to find out more about his history and potential medical conditions.

His test revealed he was at risk of several “very serious illnesses”, he says, and without that knowledge, he would not have known to do further tests on his blood to avoid further health problems in future.

“For 40 years, France has not respected the European Convention of Human Rights, especially Article 8, which says that it is vital for an individual to know their biological heritage,” says Kermalvezen.

“For ten years now, I have been asking sperm banks to update our medical records.”

Legal issues surrounding the use of surrogates in pregnancy will also feature on the assembly’s agenda when it opens this week.

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