A campaign to highlight the need for a system of support for individuals conceived through donor conception has been launched this week by charity Progress Educational Trust (PET).
Sarah Norcross, director of PET, said: “PET welcomes the recently-released UK guidelines on the use of donor sperm, eggs and embryos which recommend donors, recipients and their families should now be advised on the availability and implications of genetic ancestry testing and how donor anonymity is no longer guaranteed. This is a wake-up call for everyone involved in donor conception; there can be no more donor secrets. What is needed now is appropriate and adequate support for all affected.”
The #EndofAnonymity debate, being held on Wednesday, June 18 in London, will hear from Debbie Kennett, genetic genealogist and honorary research associate at University College London, on the rapid growth of the genetic ancestry testing industry, how easy it is to find genetic relatives online in the big data era, and how many of the people taking the tests are doing so at a later stage of their life, in their 50s, 60s and 70s, often after receiving a home DNA kit as a birthday or Christmas gift.
100 million people will have used a home ancestry test by 2021
Debbie said: “We are seeing exponential growth of the direct-to-consumer genetic testing industry: in 2016, 3 million people had used these tests; in 2019, it’s 30 million. One forecast suggests 100 million people will have used a home ancestry test by 2021. The genie is out of the bottle. Donor anonymity has ended, the question now is how do we deal with the consequences? For people who did not know they were donor-conceived, their identity can be completely shattered, they feel like they have been lied to all their life.”
Andy Waters was a sperm donor in the UK before the law was changed to end anonymity and has been contacted in the last year by a number of his donor-conceived offspring, who found him after using DNA home-testing kits.
He said: “The popularity of genetic ancestry testing means it no longer matters whether you as an individual choose to join in, if your relatives do – your brother, your sister or your cousins, or even someone you share a great-grandparent with – genetic matches to you can be identified. Telling donor-conceived individuals earlier makes it much easier to assimilate and incorporate the information into their identity. The result of finding out later in life is typically distress and emotional harm.”
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