Call For Children Donor Awareness

Children born with the help of donated sperm or eggs should have the fact recorded on their birth certificates, a group of MPs and peers has suggested.

They say the measure would give parents an incentive to discuss the topic before children found out themselves.

The cross-party group made the recommendation in a review of the draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill.

The committee also called for a number of significant changes to the proposed overhaul of fertility laws.

The Bill is expected to be included in the Queen’s Speech in November.

But the Joint Committee report raises serious questions about whether it will continue in its current form after all 18 members agreed that the draft bill was flawed.

The committee was set up to scrutinise the proposals before their passage through Parliament on the way to becoming law.

At present, a child conceived using donated sperm or eggs can grow up not knowing this fact, if his or her parents choose not to reveal it.

The committee said that this amounted to the state being party to a “lie” and called on ministers to give consideration to compelling parents to include the detail on the birth certificate.

They also said the proposal at the core of the draft bill, combining two existing regulatory authorities – the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) – into one “truncated” body should be abandoned.

The government’s proposed Regulatory Authority for Tissue and Embryology (RATE) would govern both IVF clinics and research involving fertility and embryos, and the storage, use and disposal of human bodies, organs and tissues.

The committee said the only likely benefits were a reduced number of authorities and a small financial saving.

At the same time, scrapping the HFEA would undermine public trust in the way fertility services were regulated, they said, as the HFEA was well regarded and could lose that status under a merger.

The committee also took issue with the proposal to remove the current requirement for IVF clinics to take into account the need for a father.

They said it was right that lesbian couples should be considered for IVF, but said removing the father clause could encourage clinics to downgrade the importance of a two parent family.

But the committee said the proposals on so-called saviour siblings, where IVF babies are born in order to provide donor tissue, did not go far enough.

The bill said this should continue, but the committee said the provision covering life-threatening diseases should be extended to cover serious conditions which seriously impact on quality of life.

Committee chairman Phil Willis said these were “significant changes” that would totally alter the architecture of the current draft bill.

“I hope the government gives our recommendations their full consideration. I don’t think the bill in its present form would gain the support of MPs.”

The report was broadly welcomed by scientists and doctors.

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, of the National Institute for Medical Research, said the committee had worked very hard to “solve all the issues” and he was reasonably content with the findings.

“I fully support their rejection of the merger of the HFEA and HTA to form RATE – this would create a chimeric body far more troubling than any I can imagine.”

But Liberal Democrat science spokesman Dr Evan Harris said the recommendation to record donor parenthood on birth certificates was a “bizarre and intrusive solution to a problem that has never been demonstrated to exist.”

“There is no proper evidence that children or adults suffer from not knowing who their ‘real fathers’ are, whether from IVF or from infidelity,” he told the BBC News website.

Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said: “We are grateful for the report by the pre-legislative scrutiny committee, which we will study with interest, and respond to in due course.

“The current law has served us well, but needs revision. Technology has changed and so have attitudes.”