As donor anonymity ends in Ireland, how will that impact donor pools for the IVF couple?

Donor assisted human reproductive procedures are believed to be one of the quickest evolving areas of medicine and science today. Ireland is one of the first European countries to question whether the sperm, egg, and embryo donors should remain anonymous (see full article). That, however, has rather wide implications for both the donors and the recipient – the IVF couple.

Donor anonymity in Ireland

The Children and Family Relationships Act in Ireland enforces the disclosure of the personal information by autumn of this year. Essentially, this means that the child conceived through donation and IVF treatment will have the right to know both parents. The recent law development, nonetheless, claims to reflect the rights of children to know their genetic information and heritage. The Irish Department of Health believes that family law needs to catch up on modern medicine and science development and adapt to it. The concern though is that by removing anonymity, fertility clinics are likely going to be facing a considerate decrease in the amount of donors.

So what are the actual practical implications?

The donors of the gametes (sperms or eggs) will be providing personal information which is registered in the health system. The new legislative proposal also says that the donor has to be 18 years of age and recipients at least 21 years old. The register will be nationwide, but has the ambition to spread even further. On one hand, the changes promise more clarity but on the other, the loss of anonymity is likely going to discourage donors and ultimately reduce the pool of donors. Moreover, this is also likely going to increase travel for IVF procedures abroad for those who can afford to.  A treatment which is already far more expensive to undergo in Ireland than other European countries.

How does it work in the Czech Republic?

The law in the Czech Republic is clear on donor anonymity at this point. As for now, the sperm, egg and embryo donors remain 100% anonymous. By doing so, not only people’s privacy is respected and protected, but also the donor pool for the IVF couple remains larger. According to Czech regulations, the sperm and egg donor can be anyone between 18 – 40 years old that passes the test for absence of sexually transmitted diseases, goes through several blood tests, tests for genetic diseases and ultimately whose gametes prove to be of a high quality. Thanks to the elaborate and thorough health exams, the specialists are able to determine the overall health state of the donor, rule out any risk factors and ultimately evaluate the quality of the sperm, egg and embryo.

The future of donor anonymity?

Ireland is ruling out donor anonymity and introducing the register system by the end of this year. The intention, for now, is not to make the new legislative too rigid. It should, on the contrary, be open to further amendments which can result in the future development of medicine and science. Only time will tell, how the new legislation impacts Ireland and what the consequences of the loss of donor anonymity will be for the donors, receivers, and the offspring.

Contributing writer: Julie Mahlerová

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