Proposed Changes to Gamete Donor Anonymity Laws in the UK: What You Need to Know

5 Jul 2022 | Isabelle James

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has proposed changes to the law surrounding gamete donor anonymity in the UK. If these proposals are approved, it may mean that donors will no longer be able to remain anonymous after donating sperm or eggs. This change could have a significant impact on the number of people who choose to donate their gametes, so it’s important to understand what these proposed changes entail.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the HFEA’s proposals and explore what they could mean for donors, patients and donor-conceived children.

What does the current law say about donors?

Under the current law, donors have a partial right to remain anonymous. They can donate sperm or eggs without their identity being revealed, but they must agree to have their full name, address and date of birth added to a confidential registry at the HFEA. If a child conceived using donor gametes wants to find out information about their donor, they can request some limited information when they turn 16 and information about their donor’s name, date and town of birth and address held by the HFEA when they turn 18.

This law was introduced in 2005 to help children establish contact with their donors and locate half-siblings. At the time it was thought that many donors would also welcome the chance to meet the children they helped create.

Donors have no legal or financial responsibility for any child conceived using their gametes. They can decline any contact, even if the child wishes to establish a relationship with them.

Why scrap donor anonymity laws?

The HFEA is considering whether the current donor anonymity framework is still fit for purpose in the era of cheap consumer genetic testing.

Today, members of the public can easily obtain DNA tests to find out their ancestry and genetic health risks through sites such as and 23 and Me. These sites allow users to upload their DNA data, which is then compared to a database of other people’s DNA. If a donor-conceived child were to take one of these tests, they might be able to find information on their genetic relatives, including donors, long before the HFEA register opens when the child turns 16 or 18.

This has led the HFEA to question whether the current law surrounding donor anonymity can cope with the current reality, or whether it needs to be brought into line with new trends.

What are the proposed changes?

The HFEA has not yet settled on a proposal around anonymity. One option under consideration is lifting the anonymity of gamete donors entirely. For donors, this would mean their identity would be recorded on the HFEA register, and if a child conceived using their gametes or their family wanted to find out their identity, they would be able to do so from birth or conception, rather than when the child turns 16 or 18 as set out above.

Another option is a voluntary arrangement where individual donors and families could agree between themselves on what information will be shared and when. Some families already put in place preconception agreements around gamete donation and parental responsibility, usually in cases where the donor donates via a clinic to someone they know. A voluntary framework would see these agreements becoming mainstream for all types of gamete donation.

The third option is a “double-track” system, which would mean that donors would have to actively choose between remaining anonymous until the child is 16 or 18 as under the current framework, or being identifiable from the outset. Anonymity would then become part of the process for choosing a donor, as patients could choose between donors who wish to be identified and those who do not. In reality, however, there may not be much of a ‘choice’ since consumer DNA testing could still uncover the donor’s identity.

What are the implications of these changes?

If the HFEA’s proposals are approved, it could have a significant impact on the number of people who choose to donate gametes in the UK. As such, the proposals are likely to spark intense debate around questions such as:

  • At what point does the donor’s identity become available – before or after the child’s birth?
  • Who will be responsible for managing the sharing of information?
  • What is the impact on the welfare of the child? Would it be confusing for younger children to access this information?
  • What support services will be available to those affected?
  • Will fertility patients be more likely to go overseas for treatment, where anonymity is assured?

The HFEA is planning to consult on these changes and propose new legislation by the end of the year, and it remains to be seen what the final outcome will be. In the meantime, we will be keeping a close eye on developments and will provide updates as and when they happen.

If you would like to speak to a specialist family law solicitor about a fertility matter, call Isabelle James, or complete an online enquiry form.

Share this article


Contact Isabelle James today

For a free initial conversation call 0207 485 8811

Email us Send us an email and we’ll get back to you

    • Naomi Angell has considerable strength in adoption, surrogacy and fertility issues

      Legal 500 2023

    • "She has an encyclopaedic knowledge and an in-depth understanding of this work. She's extremely empathetic and can put herself in the client's shoes. She's also very strategic and is good at pre-empting litigation."

      Chambers UK 2023

    • "She's extremely knowledgeable and highly professional."

      Chambers UK 2021

    • "She is the guru when it comes to international adoption and she's an expert in her field."

      Chambers UK 2021

    • "Naomi Angell is a highly esteemed practitioner who is highlighted as "a leader in the field" and "extremely knowledgeable" by interviewees. She is particularly recognised for her experience in complex adoption disputes."

      Chambers UK

    • "Naomi Angell is a leading name in international adoption."

      The Legal 500

    • "Recognised for its expertise in both domestic and international adoption, as well as assisted conception."

      Chambers UK

    • "Naomi Angell is a leading figure in domestic and inter-country adoptions, and also has expert knowledge of related fertility and surrogacy issues."

      Chambers UK

    • Naomi Angell is the doyenne of inter-country adoption and the font of all knowledge in this area.

      Chambers UK

    • Highly respected for her [Naomi Angell] focused on cross-border children work, including surrogacy matters.

      Chambers UK

    • Naomi Angell advises on international adoptions and complex surrogacy matters. She is commended for her broad, in-depth experience."

      Chambers UK

    • Naomi Angell is an expert in adoption issues.

      Legal 500

    • Naomi Angell leads the market in cross-border children law matters. Sources confirm that she is "at the cutting edge of changing law and policy" when it comes to international adoption

      Chambers UK

    • Naomi Angell is described as hugely experienced, calm and a good listener.

      Chambers UK

    Related InsightsVIEW ALL

    1. 8.12.2022

      The courts approach to costs in financial proceedings...

      WC V HC – a recent costs case in financial proceedings on divorce The recent case of WC v HC [2022] EWFC 40...

      Read more
    2. 7.12.2022

      Judgment on a prenuptial case

      Case Law One of the reasons I am still passionate about family law, after 20 years in the field, is that...

      Read more
    3. 31.8.2022

      What if my partner predeceases me before we...

      A review of a recent case concerning consent during fertility treatment. When going through fertility treatment as a couple, it...

      Read more
    4. 31.8.2022

      Declaration of parentage after mistake at register office

      Recently in the news has been the outcome of the case of Osborne & Anor v Cambridgeshire County Council [2022] EWHC 1982 (...

      Read more
    5. 22.8.2022

      Proposed Capital Gains Tax Rule Changes Could Reduce...

      The government has proposed a number of changes to the capital gains tax (CGT) rules which, if enacted, will come...

      Read more
    6. 2.8.2022

      New strategy to make fertility treatment more accessible

      In July 2022, the Department of Health for England released its strategy aimed at improving Women’s Health. While women represent 51%...

      Read more
    7. 5.7.2022

      Proposed Changes to Gamete Donor Anonymity Laws in...

      The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has proposed changes to the law surrounding gamete donor anonymity in the UK....

      Read more
    8. 12.4.2022

      Mediation or Arbitration: What’s best for me?

      Few divorcing couples want to end up in court, which is why mediation and arbitration are faster and more effective...

      Read more
    9. 20.1.2022

      Family Mediation: a cost-effective alternative to court action

      Mediation is increasingly important for our clients in their efforts to resolve children and financial issues divorce. This week (17 to 21...

      Read more
    10. family in poppy field

      6 cases that shape a private children dispute

      Family disputes involving children can be particularly emotive, which is why our expert children lawyers work tirelessly to understand how...

      Read more
    11. 22.12.2021

      Naomi Angell, founder, celebrates Coram Children’s Legal...

      Naomi Angell, Head of Osbornes’ Adoption, Surrogacy and Fertility Law Unit spoke, at the 40th birthday of the Coram Children’...

      Read more
    12. 8.12.2021

      Has my child been abducted?

      My ex-partner has taken our child abroad without my consent – what should I do? In order for a parent to...

      Read more
    13. 18.11.2021

      Legal considerations in the surrogacy process

      What Are My Surrogacy Options at Home and Abroad? When you’re considering surrogacy as an intended parent, you may...

      Read more
    14. adoption

      Birth parent fails to overturn adoption order

      Most adoption applications go through smoothly and it is only in the minority of cases that birth parents seek to...

      Read more
    15. 21.9.2021

      Changes in Fertility Law Benefit Families

      Following campaigning by those working in the fertility sector and public consultation in 2020, the Government announced on 6th September 2021 that...

      Read more
    16. beneficial interest in property review at the court of appeal

      Beneficial Interest in Property

      Andrew Watson, a London based divorce lawyer in our family department and Resolution accredited specialist in cohabitation, summarises the law...

      Read more
    17. father and children

      Child Maintenance: When is capital, income?

      Reading a recent case from the Child Maintenance Tribunal, I considered it worth flagging up that the Child Maintenance Rules...

      Read more
    18. 27.4.2021

      Pre-nups becoming the new norm for soon to...

      Lawyers are seeing record numbers of couples signing pre-nuptial agreements this year as the country moves closer to a society...

      Read more
    19. Pre-nup

      Pet-Nups: Who Keeps The Dog On Divorce Or...

      ‘Do you need a pet-nup’. We examine why many couples are including arrangements for their pets in a pre-nuptial agreement....

      Read more
    20. 5.3.2021

      Contesting a prenuptial agreement

      Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are getting a divorce after nearly seven years of marriage.  According to reports, Kim filed...

      Read more
    21. 26.2.2021

      Unsafe cladding: Issues for separating couples

      The government has recently announced it is providing additional financial support towards rectifying the cladding issues in countless buildings across...

      Read more
    22. 5.10.2020

      Lockdown rush to cohabitation leaves couples lacking financial...

      When the lockdown was announced many couples had to make a rushed decision to move in together or face months...

      Read more
    23. 3.8.2020

      Family lawyer at Osbornes discusses how she juggles...

      Sarah Scott, associate solicitor in the firm’s family department contributed to The Law Society Gazette’s piece on “Lawyers...

      Read more
    24. 1.7.2020

      Mediation by Zoom

      At Osbornes, our Family Law mediations are in the main, conducted by Zoom during lockdown as our  main office in...

      Read more