Gamete donation and anonymity: the ethical and legal debate

Hum Reprod. 2001 May;16(5):818-24. doi: 10.1093/humrep/16.5.818.


The British government is currently considering whether to review the law on information provision for donor offspring. This paper therefore provides an overview of the current international legal situation relating to donor anonymity and a review of the key arguments and evidence on both sides of the debate. While the British government is considering all aspects of information giving, both identifying and non-identifying donor information, this paper will focus on the most contentious issue: the provision of information that would identify the donor. The current legal situation in the UK and internationally is examined, drawing attention to a possible international trend towards more information giving. The evolution of the present British system is outlined and it is asked whether some of the concerns and values that gave rise to the practice of anonymous donation are still relevant today. Looking at the concept of a child's right to know their biological identity it examines the possible basis of such a right and its potential conflict with the perceived interests of the child's parents. Finally, some of the practical obstacles to non-anonymous donation are evaluated. The paper concludes that a review of the British law is both timely and desirable.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Confidentiality* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Female
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Insemination, Artificial, Heterologous / history
  • Male
  • Oocyte Donation*
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Tissue Donors*
  • United Kingdom