It is legal in the UK to donate, and receive, egg and sperm donations. However, it is illegal for a donor to be paid for their donation other than their expenses.
Someone wanting to use a donor to create a baby can either do this via:
A licensed UK fertility clinic
A private arrangement.
These routes have different legal implications that should be carefully considered before beginning fertility treatment. Using a licensed UK clinic means that the donor’s history is checked to make sure there are no genetic conditions or infection (including HIV, hepatitis, syphilis and gonorrhea) that could be passed on. If a private arrangement is used without the donation being tested, then there is a greater risk.
Using donor eggs or sperm in the hope of a successful pregnancy are used for several reasons:
Either the man or woman is not producing eggs or sperm of their own. This can be a condition that they were born with or has occurred over time (for example, due to cancer treatment or because the woman has gone through the menopause)
The egg or sperm of those wanting to have a baby are unlikely to result in a successful pregnancy
There may be a high risk of an inherited disease being passed onto the baby if the couple’s own egg or sperm is used
Same sex or transgender couples would need a donor to have a baby
Similarly single people that would like to have a baby would need a donor
Donation at licensed clinics is carefully regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), ensuring not only the health and safety of the resulting child, but clarity with regards to the legal position of all parties involved. Licensed clinics, as such, ought to follow the HFEA Code of Practice which is as follows:
Donors must be screened, through blood tests and medical history, to minimise risk of disease or genetic disorders. Any sperm or eggs they donate will also be analysed before use.
Donors can only be paid expenses - for these purposes the HFEA allows £750 per cycle for egg donors and £35 per clinic visit for sperm donors.
The clinic must offer the donors and parents counselling respectively to ensure their understanding of any implications as well as the importance of a child knowing their genetic heritage.
Storage of eggs and sperm is normally for a maximum of ten years, though this period may be extended in certain circumstances.
Eggs and sperm can only be imported into the UK from overseas if they comply with HFEA rules.
Donors cannot donate to more than ten families via licensed clinics.
It is also possible to obtain sperm or eggs from abroad via clinics, although it is important in these circumstances that you research any safety or legal issues, including screening processes and protection and disclosure of information.
Donors may donate to individuals they already know, including friends. There are restrictions on using close relatives. It is also possible at some clinics to go through a list of sperm, egg or embryo donors though the waiting lists can be long. Egg donors need to be between the aged of 18 and 35, whilst sperm donors should be between 18 and 45. Older women and men may donate in exceptional circumstances, if the clinic feel it is unlikely there will be any serious consequences.
Receiving fertility treatment at a licensed clinic ensures that a sperm, egg or embryo donor does not have any legal rights or obligations in relation to the child:
They are not the legal parent of the child
Do not acquire any legal obligation towards the child, including the need to financially support the child
Are not named on the birth certificate
Do not have any rights over how the child will be brought up
If a private arrangement is used for sperm donation, then the law is more complicated in this area and the donor could be considered the father by law. This is particularly the case for single parents or same sex couples where the donor may be legally regarded as the parent. The woman that gives birth to the baby (regardless of whether a donor egg was used) is legally the mother of the child automatically. Who is legally regarded as the father depends on whether she is married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting with a partner and how the insemination occurred (artificially or via sexual intercourse).
A child that is conceived via a donor can find out the information that the parents could discover when they were looking for a donor:
Their (height, weight, eye and hair colour
Where they were born and what year
Their ethnicity, marital status and medical history
If they had children at the time of donation, how many and their gender
A personal description and goodwill message to any potential children (this is optional)
At 18 years, any children born from a donation can ask for the name, date of birth and last known address of the donor to contact them. They can join the HFEA’s donor sibling link to find other siblings if they also join. The donor is also entitled to find out the number of children born, their gender and their year of birth. There are now websites that offer a DNA testing and matching service
A donor can their consent for a donation to be used at any point up until it is used in treatment.
If you intend to use a private arrangement and the donor is to be involved in the child’s life, the parties may draft a donor agreement to clarify everyone’s intentions and avoiding any future disputes or misunderstandings. It is important to note that these agreements are not legally binding.
The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.