By Annette Hickey | 3 March 2021

Donor Assisted Human Reproduction (Sperm Donation) – What You Need To Know

Sperm Donor Assisted Human ReproductionImportant Differences to You, Your Child and Donor Should You Decide To Pursue Donor Conception Via A Clinic Or With A Private Donor.

You may have seen recent media commentary regarding the challenges of Donor Assisted Human Reproduction in Ireland and sperm donation in particular.  This attention is a result of reports that more and more people are turning to unofficial methods in order to conceive and have a family of their own.  

Last Monday evening I was very pleased to speak on the Claire Byrne ‘Life Show’ on RTE and also the Hard Shoulder on Newstalk last Thursday.  The reason I wanted to get involved and participate in these discussions is due to the very real lack of accurate information available to women who would like assistance conceiving, and worse still, the volume of misinformation in circulation.

Unfortunately, the current pandemic has led to more and more women feeling pressured to make decisions owing to the current inability to travel and meet people.  Some feel that if the situation persists it could seriously impact their ability to meet a partner and settle down. This thinking has led to some women feeling anxious and vulnerable regarding their own hopes and dreams of becoming a parent and having a family of their own.  

As a Family lawyer who also specialises in Fertility and Surrogacy law, I often hear from couples and indeed single people through the course of my work about the pressures they feel when it comes to settling down and having a family.

The processes are often complex and there is a lack of awareness and knowledge about the clarity and safeguards in the new legislative provisions and can lead to feelings of both desperation and anxiousnesses.  This article will therefore attempt to outline some of the pros and cons in relation to Donor Assisted Human Reproduction and what I feel you should know before you embark upon a particular course of action.

  • Important Note Poe Kiely Hogan Lanigan is not commercially aligned to any clinic or agency. We do not refer clients to any particular clinic or agency and we do not accept referral fees from any party under any circumstances.

Recognising that when faced with the two options of engaging a Clinic versus a more unconventional approach, using a Clinic may appear to the more expensive option in the first instance. 

It is, however, important to note that a Clinic will rigorously assess and screen donor sperm for genetic and infectious disease, including hereditary conditions, before a sperm will be accepted for use. It is reassuring that a study has recently found that Clinics use only 5% of the sperm donated to them.

They will also provide legal protection for the sperm donor and prevent future requests for parental rights or demands for financial support for the child.  A Clinic will also conduct all procedures in a safe and secure clinical environment reducing the potential for infection. 

Whilst an unofficial arrangement may appear to save costs in the first instance, engaging with an Irish Fertility Clinic can save time, reduce costs in the long term, and most importantly, they will provide a safeguarding role to ensure all parties are fully informed and protected throughout the process.

It is also important to note that from 4th May 2020 all donor conception procedures carried out in Irish fertility clinics must now be strictly in accordance with the provisions of the 'Children and Family Relationship Act 2015' and will only permitted to use non-anonymous donor gametes (eggs, sperm). This is a positive step forward and indeed the first statutory legislation in Ireland in the area of assisted reproduction.

Whilst it is concerning that this change in legislation appears to have been introduced without much awareness, its purpose is to ensure that all children born through donor conception will have the right to access identifying information regarding their donor once they reach adulthood.  In contrast to this, the Donor will not be permitted to access identifying information regarding the child, unless the child (upon reaching adulthood), has confirmed they are agreeable to their identifying information being shared with the donor. 

All information will be maintained in the National Donor Conceived Persons Registrar.

These changes have seen the already regulated Irish Fertility Clinics become even more regulated resulting in several important legal implications for children born with the statutory provisions of a Clinic’s “donor conception procedure” versus those born where the fertilising sperm has been ‘acquired’ directly by the intending parents.

Irish Fertility Clinic

Donor Conception
(Outside of Fertility Clinic)

Parentage of Donor

 

The donor has no parental rights towards the child and therefore
no role or relationship in the
child’s upbringing

If a DNA test proves the donor as the biological father of the child they have the right to bring an application before the Court for recognition as the Child’s parent

The mother of the child will have
no recourse to the donor for
financial support regarding the upbringing of the child

The mother of the child has a right to apply to the Court for financial support from the donor at any time

Parentage of Second Intended Parent

(Spouse (male or female) Civil Partner or Co-Habitant of the Mother)

 

A Declaration is signed by the
Second Intended Parent to
confirm they are the legal parent with the Mother and will
therefore have the legal right
to a parental role and
relationship with the child

The Second Intended Parent (i.e. spouse) is not legally the parent of the child

National Donor Conceived Persons Registrar

 

The Child, upon reaching
adulthood, can request
identifying information regarding their donor so that they can access information about their genetic origins and make up

The child will have no access to any medical or genetic information regarding their father as the donor’s identifying information will not be recorded on the National Donor Conceived Persons Registrar

  

It is clear that this is an extremely sensitive and emotive area for anyone considering having a child through the assistance of donor sperm. There are two very distinct routes to conception and having a child, however, using unofficial channels could lead to several moral, ethical and quite serious legal implications. 

The Assisted Human Reproduction Bill which has been published but not yet enacted into Irish law will bring with it serious implications for anyone involved in either the sale or procurement of human sperm and make it an offence to engage in this type of activity.

The current pandemic and the implications of lockdown not being allowed to get out and meet people has undoubtedly added to the anxiety and pressures faced by women who would like to conceive in the near term.  While the unofficial route may appear the easiest and most cost-effective route, it is important to note that this could lead to serious health risks for both the mother and the child whilst a clinic’s donor conception process will provide all parties with statutory safeguards, health screening and legal protection.

Should you wish to discuss any aspect of Donor Assisted Human Reproduction or have concerns regarding the legal implications that a particular decision may lead to, please do not hesitate to contact Annette Hickey, head of Surrogacy & Fertility law at Poe Kiely Hogan Lanigan Solicitors.  

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Written By Annette Hickey

Annette has exclusively practised family law in the litigation department for the past 10 years and heads up the firm's Surrogacy & Fertility law team.

She is highly respected and regarded for her expertise and knowledge of fertility law, surrogacy and same-sex family matters. Diligent, thorough and empathetic, Annette brings a wealth of experience, sensitivity and understanding to our team.

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