Mark Henderson, Science Editor
The birth certificates of children born from donated eggs and sperm would be marked with details of the way they were conceived, under proposals advanced yesterday by MPs and peers.
A legal requirement to register such births openly is the only way of ensuring that children conceived from donors have the right to learn of their biological origins, a parliamentary committee that is scrutinising fertility reforms said.
The joint Commons and Lords panel said that it recognised “the force of the argument” for including this information on birth certificates, and urged ministers “to give this consideration as a matter of urgency” for legislation that will be included in the Queen’s Speech.
It stopped short of backing a legal obligation on parents to tell their children if they are donor-conceived, which it decided would be unenforceable.
The suggestion raises significant privacy issues as birth certificates are public documents. Anybody would thus be able to find out whether any individual had been conceived from donated eggs or sperm.
The committee, however, said that it saw no other way of guaranteeing the right to know. Although people can consult a register when they turn 18 to find out whether they are donor-conceived, and those conceived after April 2005 will be allowed to trace their biological parents, many never think to do so as they never suspect their origins.
Phil Willis, the Liberal Democrat MP who chaired the joint committee on the draft Human Tissues and Embryos Bill, said: “We were very strongly of the view that the State should not be complicit in what in fact would be a lie regarding the origins of where a child actually came from. The principle is that we believe children have a right to know.”
The committee, which was established by ministers to examine draft reforms to Britain’s 17-year-old fertility laws before they are presented in the Queen’s Speech, also objected strongly to several of its central elements.
It urged the Government to drop its plan to merge the fertility treatment and human tissue watchdogs, as disclosed by The Times last week. The half of the draft Bill that creates the replacement Regulatory Authority for Tissues and Embryos (Rate) should be ripped up altogether, it said.
“We are proposing very considerable changes to the Bill that undermine its architecture,” Mr Willis said.
The report was also critical of the Government’s plans to ban hybrid embryos made by fertilising an animal egg with human sperm or vice versa.
It also questioned plans about whether a doctor should take into account a child’s need for a father before providing IVF. The Government wanted to remove the requirement, but the committee want it retained with language that makes clear that it relates to the ideal of two parents.
Other recommendations included a parliamentary bioethics committee and reform of the Human Tissue Act.
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