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Does sperm donation automatically give parental rights and obligations?

The NHS recently paid a five figure compensation to the children born through sperm donation in a medical negligence case raising the question of the parental rights and obligations of a sperm donor.

The case, which concluded in June, involved a lesbian couple whose children had been fathered through a private donation made by one of the women’s nephews and the Trust initially did not acknowledge the children.

According to official figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the UKs independent regulator, the number of sperm donations has increased by a significant fifty per cent between 2005 and 2010. This figure does not account for the number of donations made in private arrangements. The report showed that a total of 45,264 women received fertility treatment in the UK in 2010, 4,868 of these were in the North West.

Colin Davies, family partner at Linder Myers solicitors commented: “This raises the controversial and moral question of whether a sperm donor has the same rights and obligations as a father in traditional circumstances. In this unique case, the donor was a family member and the arrangement went ahead privately so in the eyes of the law, the father had the same legal rights and obligations as any other parent so the Trust had to pay the compensation.

“When a donation is made through an HFEA licensed clinic, the man has no legal rights nor obligations to any children born as a result. As women increasingly choose to have children at a later stage and divorce rates are sadly on the increase, sperm donation may become a more popular alternative making it essential to understand the long term implications on both the biological parents and the children.”

Prior to 2005, a man could donate sperm anonymously but legislation changed so that any children born as a result of sperm donation after 1st April 2005 now have the legal right to find out the name and address of their biological father once they reach the age of 18.

Davies continued: “As societal norms change and evolve, it is important for both men and women choosing to go down this route to fully understand the long term implications and ensure they use the official channels. Private arrangements of this sort can cause problems if a dispute arose later down the line between the two parties.”

“For example, if the woman decided that financial assistance was required after the initial private agreement was made, the man who may have donated in good faith to help a friend would be obliged to pay child maintenance. As sperm donation increases, it is key to go through official channels to avoid these situations arising.”



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