Approaches to privacy and confidentiality in gamete donation vary widely across the globe. In the United Sates, most donations are conducted without the parties being identified to each other and disclosure to donor-conceived persons is still not universally practiced. But, as science and technology evolve, the debate over donor anonymity is poised to perhaps become moot. In recent years, direct to consumer genetic testing has become readily accessible online, without a medical practitioner’s involvement, and at a relatively affordable cost. As the DNA companies build their data bases, it is increasingly likely that a search will reveal the identity of a donor or a donor conceived person, either because the donor has registered or a relative of the donor has registered. Although experts in the field agree that disclosure of their genetic origins to donor conceived persons is important and may even be considered a right, donors who were promised anonymity are likely to be disappointed and very probably angry if their identity is revealed without their consent or knowledge. Although contracts, medical practice standards and professional privileges can bind the parties to confidentiality, there are no protections to prevent those not involved in the contractual process, including the person conceived from the donation, from seeking and sharing DNA information.
Attorneys should counsel clients that it is no longer possible to assume that anonymity will be maintained. Further, although disclosure to their child about the donor process is ultimately the parent’s decision, clients should be told that experts recommend discussing the donation with their child and introducing the topic as early as may be appropriate for their child’s age and ability to understand. The following resources should be helpful:
–Margaret Swain is a Fellow of the Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproduction Attorneys and the current ART Director