Anonymous No More?

July 28th, 2011

For decades, anonymity has been the hallmark of egg and sperm donation. Like most agencies, we take great care to protect the identities of our donors and recipients and establish a direct agreement between parties to ensure the desired degree of privacy of all parties involved. A new law in Washington, though, makes it the first state to change the “rules.” It will now guarantee that children who are conceived with the help of egg donation agencies and sperm banks in Washington have access to their donors’ full name and medical history. Unless the donor specifically opts out of this agreement to be identified, the information will be available to the child when he or she turns 18.

It’s a controversial concept, particularly considering what the standard has been for so many years. Unlike adoption, where open relationships have become quite common, the act of “donating” is often viewed as something that is done anonymously – like blood and organ donations. But in a article last week, law professor Julie Shapiro notes that “there is an emerging sense that it’s a problem for children and it’s a problem for donors. They have regrets.”

We are finding that more and more intended parents want to provide this option for their future child. It’s not so much about identity now, but rather to answer questions about their genetic origins later. And donors tend to respond in kind. While they’re not necessarily looking to share personal information, they may be able to see it from the recipients’ perspective and agree to be identified in the future. The law in Washington is clarifying something that is already happening in many legal documents around the country – the donor must confirm that she is open to the potential of future contact, should the child desire it.

In the field of third party reproduction, laws are constantly evolving. Donor anonymity will continue to be a delicate aspect of the legal process, and none of us – states included – should be the final judge of what is right for each donor match.

Read more about the new law and its implications at