The Victorian Government has tabled the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment Bill 2015 in parliament this week (25 November 2015) proposing to change the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008. The proposed donor conception laws, if passed, will give rights to people conceived using donated sperm, eggs or embryos to access identifying information about their donors, without having to seek the consent of the donor first.
Such access to information, as well as support services for both donors and donor-conceived people, will occur via the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Authority (VARTA) – an independent regulatory authority focused on all facets of assisted reproduction.
Notably, the proposed laws have adopted the suggestion to allow donors and donor-conceived people to lodge contact preferences. That is, donors and donor-conceived people will be able to decide the way in which contact with each other will occur, if at all.
Such an approach is intended to balance the interests of the people involved, providing the information people seek, but not imposing contact upon anybody who does not wish to have such contact. People may therefore elect the degree to which they wish contact to take place (for example, via email, via letter exchange, via a supported meeting, etc) and will also have the option to choose a ‘no contact’ preference. If a contact preference is breached, a significant penalty of up to approximately $9,000 may apply. Contact preferences may also be placed in relation to legal children of donors or donor-conceived people who are under the age of 18 years.
The proposed donor conception laws represent years of significant calls and appeals for information by donor-conceived people, recipient parents, and some donors, as well as by people who have supported them along the way. They are also being referred to as ‘Narelle’s Law’ in memory of a young adult donor-conceived girl who died of a hereditable form of cancer in 2013, and who had fought for information release for 15 years. It took a special move by the former Premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu, to provide her details of her donor shortly before her death. Ray Tonna, the donor, embraced meeting Narelle, stating he wished he had known her all of her life.
On the other hand, some donors have expressed preference for an approach in which information would only be released with their consent. The issue however then lies that only some donor-conceived people would be provided with information, but others would be left without. Other donors have confirmed that they view the proposed changes as positive and ‘welcome and embrace’ an end to donor anonymity.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The next stage of the process is that the Bill will be subject to debate and possible change via the parliamentary process. It will need to be passed by both Houses of Parliament in order for it to become law. This process will move into 2016.
If the legislation passes, the application of such a model to release of information to donor-conceived people will be a world first.
For further reading and information about the steps to such change, as well as a link to the proposed legislation see:
Victorian Law Reform Committee Report
Articles by the author:
- ‘Access to Information about Donors by Donor Conceived Individuals: A Human Rights Analysis’ (2013) 20 Journal of Law and Medicine 655.
- ‘Deciding on access to donor-conception information’ (2012) 37(4) Alternative Law Journal 272, 272.
- ‘Donor Identification Kills Gamete Donation’? A Response to Professor Pennings‘ (2012) 27(12) Human Reproduction 3380.
- ‘Donor Conception, Secrecy, and the Search for Information‘ 19(4) Journal of Law and Medicine (June 2012).
- ‘Psycho-Social, Ethical and Legal Arguments For and Against the Retrospective Release of Information about Donors to Donor-Conceived Individuals in Australia‘ (2011) 19(1) Journal of Law and Medicine 354.
Health Law Central blogs:
- Donor Conception, Secrecy and the Search for Information
- Information for Donor Conceived People in Victoria: At Last?
The proposed legislation: