A right to know - biological origins of IVF children to be stated on birth certificates

· Report urges greater access to donor registers
· Proposals on embryos and 'saviour siblings'

Ian Sample, science correspondent
Wednesday August 1, 2007
The Guardian

Under existing law, parents are not required to inform children if they are born from donated eggs and sperm. Photograph: Getty Images
Children born from donated sperm or eggs will have the information marked on their birth certificates under sweeping changes to fertility laws proposed by an influential group of ministers and peers yesterday.
The move, designed to bolster childrens' right to know their origins, is among a raft of far-reaching recommendations the government will consider ahead of its planned reforms of legislation which has been overtaken by science.
The proposals amount to a parliamentary demand for the government to tear up its draft fertility bill, published in May, in favour of a more permissive approach that would see substantial changes in ethically contentious areas, such as the creation of "saviour siblings", the use of surplus embryos in research and the need for children conceived through IVF treatment to have a legal father figure.
The joint Commons and Lords panel was set up to scrutinise the draft human tissue bill. Over the past two months the committee has taken evidence from 46 witnesses and received more than 100 written submissions. The report from the 18-member panel, published yesterday, said there must be significant changes when the bill is included in the Queen's Speech in November.
Under existing law, parents are not required to inform children if they are born from donated eggs and sperm. The committee concluded that while a law obliging parents to do so was unenforceable, children should be able to find out the information for themselves from their birth certificates.
"If parents want to deceive their children that's their decision, but it is our view that the state should not be complicit in that," said Phil Willis, chair of the committee. Informing children about their biological origins would ensure they had proper access to donor registers that would allow them to find the identity of their genetic parent, he added. Among other proposals, the panel urged government to extend the legal limit for storing IVF embryos from five to 10 years, bringing it into line with rules for freezing sperm and eggs. With a couples' consent, any embryos remaining in storage past the 10-year limit would be handed to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the independent regulator, instead of being destroyed, which could release them for medical research.