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

5 Jul 2022 | Isabelle James
Doctor holding urine sample cup.

Table of Contents

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 is the fount of all knowledge on adoption and surrogacy cases. She is a lawyer to whom judges defer.

      Legal 500 2024

    • Osbornes has one of the strongest family law teams in the business with a very wide range of experience and seniority, from some of the biggest names in family law like Naomi Angell

      Legal 500 2024

    • 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

    • "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

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

      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. two children in the woods

      Unmarried With Children and Splitting Up

      Unmarried with Children? What are your Financial Rights? Know Your Financial Rights Under Schedule One Children Act 1989 A claim under...

      Read more
    2. parent and child

      What is Early Neutral Evaluation?

      Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) is a form of Non-Court Dispute Resolution where the separated couple invite a neutral third party...

      Read more
    3. green house

      How Does Divorce Affect Our Mortgage?

      Can you keep a joint mortgage after divorce? From a mortgage lender’s perspective your divorce does not affect your...

      Read more
    4. child reading the bible

      What is Parallel Parenting?

      Parallel parenting  is a child arrangement where each parent has equal rights and responsibilities for their children, but they do...

      Read more
    5. man with child

      Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

      Can You Co-Parent With a Narcissist? Co-parenting involves two divorced or separated parents working together to raise their children. This...

      Read more
    6. 31.5.2024

      Can I move with my children?

      Am I allowed to relocate with the children within England and Wales? Relocating within England and Wales, even if this...

      Read more
    7. co-parenting

      What is Co-Parenting And Is It Right for...

      There is no single approach to parenting your children after a divorce or separation. How you and your ex decide...

      Read more
    8. Marriage rings

      Settlements In Short Marriages

      A Marriage is a Marriage — Even If It’s Short and Childless When deciding who gets what in a divorce,...

      Read more
    9. parents with their child

      Can a Mother Stop a Father from Seeing...

      My ex-partner is telling me that I cannot see our children. Is this allowed? There is a common misconception that...

      Read more
    10. money

      Impact Of Extended Family Wealth On Divorce

      Can the Wealth of Extended Family Affect Your Divorce Outcomes? While there is no fundamental legal difference between a high-net-worth...

      Read more
    11. Living together

      My Partner Owns The House. What Rights Do...

      What are my rights if my partner owns the house and we are unmarried? There is no automatic right to...

      Read more
    12. Passover

      Spending Passover With Your Child Abroad

      Who should the Children spend time with over Passover, and where? With Passover coming to an end, you might be...

      Read more
    13. osbornes hampstead

      NCDR Rules Guide Couples Away From Court

      What is Non-Court Dispute Resolution (NCDR)? NCDR is the current buzz word in the family law world, following recent rule...

      Read more
    14. kings cross station clock

      Les 8 principaux points à prendre en compte si vous ê...

      Si vous êtes un ressortissant français ayant des liens avec l’Angleterre et que vous envisagez de divorcer, les...

      Read more
    15. Perjury

      What Happens If You Lie in Family Court?

      Honesty is the backbone of the English court system.  Witnesses in court take an oath that they will tell the...

      Read more
    16. Hampstead Hill Gardens

      Financial Remedy Orders Explained

      It is common for disagreements to arise over the finances during a divorce, even if you are on good terms...

      Read more
    17. Final Order

      What is a Final Order?

      The introduction of no-fault divorces brought about a number of changes to the divorce process in England and Wales. One...

      Read more
    18. field of flowers

      What is Parental Alienation?

      Sometimes, a child may turn against one of their parents due to the other parent’s manipulation or influence. This...

      Read more
    19. two rings

      What is maintenance pending suit?

      Introduction to maintenance pending suits Divorce proceedings, especially long-drawn-out ones, can impose a financial burden on the financially weaker party....

      Read more
    20. divorced man with empty wallet

      My spouse is going bankrupt. Will it affect...

      Divorce and Bankruptcy In 2022, more than 1 in 10 businesses reported a moderate-to-severe risk of insolvency. More than one in five (22%) of...

      Read more
    21. separation agreement

      What is a Separation Agreement?

      Introduction to separation agreements A separation agreement is a document that can be prepared  when you want to stop living...

      Read more
    22. spousal maintenance

      What is Spousal Maintenance?

      Spousal Maintenance Spousal maintenance is a legal obligation to provide financial support to a former spouse after the marriage or...

      Read more
    23. most common reasons why couples get divorced

      The 6 Most Common Reasons Why Couples Get Divorced

      What are the most common reasons for divorce? Following the UK’s transition to a no-fault divorce system, couples no...

      Read more
    24. couple on a mountain

      What is Coercive Control?

      Coercive Control Law Domestic abuse comes in many forms and it isn’t always physical. When it involves a campaign...

      Read more