B.C. lawsuit: sperm donor offspring seeks her biological father

Olivia Pratten Olivia Pratten
(Nov. 12, 2008)    Should the records of fertility clinics be opened so that donor offspring can find out who is their biological father, or mother? That's the goal of a class action lawsuit launched Oct. 24, 2008 in the province of British Columbia.

The plaintiff, journalist Olivia Pratten, is suing the Attorney General of B.C. and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. She is launching the action on behalf of all in B.C. conceived through sperm or egg donation who don't know the identity of one of their biological parents. Her lawyer is Arvay Finlay of Vancouver.

Fertility clinics must keep records

She sought an injunction to stop destruction of any gamete donor records resulting from artificial inseminations in B.C. (Gamete means a human egg or sperm. The records identify the donors, the recipients and the children conceived.) The B.C. Supreme Court issued the injunction on Oct. 28.

In her statement of claim Ms. Pratten explained that her own records were in danger of destruction. In 1981 her mother Shirley Pratten was inseminated with donor sperm at the Vancouver infertility clinic of Dr. Gerald Korn. He told Shirley that the donor would stay anonymous. Dr. Korn is now retired and has her health records in storage. The College of Physicians and Surgeons has refused to take over the records. The College said Dr. Korn need keep the records for only six years from the last medical contact with the patient (her mother Shirley) and then they could be "shredded or incinerated".

"Farmers have kept better records on the artificial insemination of cattle than the physicians in BC have kept on people like myself," said Ms. Pratten, now 26 years old.

Ms. Pratten believes that if the donor records are destroyed, she would lose medical information potentially vital to her health. It's also possible she could inadvertently marry her brother.

Her lawsuit claims that the present law discriminates against people conceived through gamete donation in that they have no legal right to find out about their biological parents.

Adopted children, in contrast, do have certain rights. In British Columbia the Adoption Reunion Registry allows adult adoptees to search for their birthparents' names. In Ontario adoption files open up next year: see "Ontario adoption files open June 1, 2009".

On behalf of all donor offspring Ms. Pratten sought to:

  • Permanently preserve all gamete donor records in B.C.
  • Make the medical and social history of gamete donors available to those conceived.
  • Allow those born through donor conception to learn the identity of the donors.
  • Allow those born through donor conception to find out if they are biologically related to a sexual partner or proposed sexual partner.

The Adoption Council of Canada (ACC) supports the right of birth parents, adoptees and adoptive parents to know each other's information, and extends that right to those born through donor conception.

As ACC vice-president Wendy Rowney said, "Every Canadian adult has the right to truthful information about his or her origins. We all need to know who we are and where we come from. It does not matter whether we are adopted or conceived by gamete donation; we all have the right to this information. The Adoption Council of Canada supports the right of all adults conceived by gamete donation to truthful information about their origins."

Media coverage

Oct. 27, 2008. Daughter of sperm donor seeks to know identity of biological father. By Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun. The daughter of an anonymous sperm donor has filed a legal action seeking to change the rules that deprive children born by way of "gamete donation" the identity and history of one of their biological parents.

Oct. 28, 2008. B.C. court issues injunction in class-action over sperm, egg donor births. CBC.ca. A B.C. judge hearing the case of a woman who wants to know the identity of her sperm donor father has issued an injunction against the destruction of records on artificial insemination.

Oct. 29, 2008. Don't destroy records, court orders sperm donor clinics. By Chad Skelton, Vancouver Sun. Interim injunction applies to current and retired fertility doctors

Oct. 29, 2008. Keep files on donated eggs, sperm, BC judge tells doctors. By Robert Matas, Globe & Mail. Ms. Pratten said she is aware of at least 50 people in B.C. who are the offspring of artificial insemination.

Oct. 30, 2008. Suit seeks identities of sperm, egg donors. By Matthew Coutts, National Post. A B.C. woman conceived through artificial insemination is fighting for the right to know the identity of her biological father.

Oct. 30, 2008. First Ever Class Action Lawsuit Filed By Sperm Donor Offspring in Canada. By Pam Madsen, former Executive Director, American Fertility Assn. The fight over the rights of donor offspring to know their genetic origins, and the accountability of sperm banks, egg donation agencies and fertility centers in making these records available to those children has been an ongoing heated discussion in the fertility community for a long time.

Oct. 31, 2008. Sperm donor wants to know who's got his genes. By Robert Matas. Globe & Mail. Vancouver man who sold his sperm hundreds of times hopes to be part of a landmark lawsuit begun this week in B.C.

Nov. 1, 2008. Do you know who my daddy is? By Margaret Wente, Globe & Mail. Dwight Jones, 64, estimates he sold his sperm to Dr. Korn on 300 to 400 occasions over 10 years. He figures he fathered at least 30 children.

Nov. 2, 2008. The seed of a dilemma. Calgary Herald. North Vancouver sperm donor Dwight Jones wants to meet some of the roughly 30 children who could call him Dad.

Nov. 3, 2008. The ethics of sperm donation. By Kelly McParland, National Post. Are the biological children of anonymous sperm donors entitled to know the identity of their fathers?

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