New rights for UK ‘donor babies’ kick in


Dozens of young adults conceived through sperm or egg donation in the United Kingdom (UK) can now finally learn more about a biological parent.

The group of 30 are the first to finally request details such as the donor’s full name, date of birth and last known address as they are the first to reach the age of 18 since new legislation was introduced in the UK in 2005.

Since 2005, this law removes the anonymity of egg and sperm donors and gives the conceived child the right to receive basic information about a biological parent when they reach the age of 18.

There are currently only 30 of these children (now young adults) who are eligible until December to learn more about a biological parent.

However, data from the UK Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) shows that this will rise to a group of more than 700 by the end of 2024, rising to 11,400 by 2030.

The cut-off point for the legislation has left some donor-conceived people disappointed as the identity of their donors will always remain a mystery.

“I’m happy for the people who want to find out, but I’m also a bit annoyed that I was a few months away from the target date, so I won’t get the chance,” says a 19-year-old student, Jamie Ruddock, from Brighton.

Ruddock says he has known for as long as he can remember that he was conceived by a donor. And although he does not long for another father figure, he is still curious about his biological father.

His older brother started looking for the donor with their father through a DNA ancestry test service, but the search has not yet yielded any fruit.

“My brother definitely has a greater sense of curiosity than I do, but… if my brother finds him (their biological father), I would like to have a conversation with him,” admits Ruddock.

Nina Barnsley, director of the UK’s Donor Conception Network, says many of those eligible to request information about their biological parent may not even be aware of how they were conceived.

Artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization (IVF) were first introduced about four decades ago. Infertility was, however, somewhat of a taboo subject at that stage and parents often did not tell children how they were conceived.

However, psychologists nowadays encourage families to play open cards with a child as early as possible.

In the meantime, donors are requested to contact the clinic where they donated and make sure their details are up to date.

“This is a very important time for young adults conceived through the use of donor sperm or eggs. Many will hope to learn more about their donors as they reach the age of 18,” says Prof. Jackson Kirkman-Brown, Chair of the Society for Reproductive and Clinical Scientists (ARCS).

“Being a donor is an incredible gift and the ARCS, along with the sector, is keen to recognize and support those who enable people to have the families they desire.”

According to the latest available figures from the Fertility Treatment and Human Embryo Research regulator, 4,100 UK births – around one in 170 – in 2019 were thanks to donor insemination.