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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 April 2021) . . Page.. 878 ..

number use gametes imported from overseas by companies like Xytex. The use of foreign donors occurs for a few reasons. Firstly, there is a recognised shortage of donors in Australia. In Australia donation is altruistic and it is illegal to be paid for donating. Secondly, anonymous donation is ruled out under ethical guidelines, although the person’s identifying information may not be made available to a donor conceived person until they are 18. Thirdly, Australian clinics have limits on the number of families created as a result of a donation.

The overseas sperm banks and egg donor banks have varying requirements. Their donors are often paid, they can be totally anonymous, and often a very large number of children and families are allowed to be created from one donor. It is common for over 40 or even 60 donor children around the world to be reported from one Xytex donor.

An ACT framework should consider what legislation should support the NHMRC’s guidelines and be based on our own circumstances. The guidelines say that gametes from a single donor must be used to create only a limited number of families. In the absence of specific state or territory legislation, clinics must take account factors outlined in the guidelines, but other states and territories have established a maximum number of families that may be created. For example, in Victoria the VARTA legislation requires that there be a maximum of 10 families created. In New South Wales and WA it is five.

The ACT has not determined a number, and so it is up to the individual ART providers. Some have chosen a smaller number of five families, reflecting our smaller community, while others have chosen a far greater number of families to be born from overseas donors. Fair access to fertility services may be a relevant consideration in this regard, as well as weighing the risks of consanguinity based on the origin of the donor.

Unfortunately, there are many examples internationally and in Australia of fertility clinics who have done the wrong thing by families and donor-conceived people. Historically, gamete donations in Australia were totally anonymous, making it incredibly difficult for children find out any details about their donor, even today with DNA testing. In Victoria this issue has been addressed through legislation to give all donor-conceived people, no matter when they were born, the right to know their genetic heritage. This has had the effect of retrospectively piercing the veil of anonymity, which was once promised to donors, and putting the rights of donor conceived children first.

The issue of historic donor anonymity needs to be considered in the ACT, based on the Victorian approach, to ensure that any people conceived from ACT donors can access identifying information about anonymous donors in the ACT. This is just one of the issues that has resulted from no regulation in the past. There is a role here for government to play in righting these wrongs through legislation, providing regulatory oversight and providing clear legislative requirements and expectations for practice in the future.

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