Donating gametes: the removal of anonymity debated by State Council

On Wednesday, October 21, 2015, the State Council held an audience to decide the partial removal of the anonymity of sperm donors. The decision is being deliberated, and will be made public at a later date.

The request comes from a 35-year-old woman, conceived using artificial insemination by a donor, and who has been fighting a legal combat for years to obtain a partial removal of the secret covering her origins.

The young woman, a professional lawyer, petitioned the administrative court, after having discovered at 29 years of age that she was conceived by artificial insemination. But she continually faced the refusal of Public Assistance – Hospitals of Paris, where the anonymity is specified by French law. Starting with her requests to the administrative court, followed by the administrative court of appeals, she requested the highest administrative jurisdiction arguing that the French law violated article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights on the “right to respect private and family life”.
 In a decision dating from 1992, the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) stated that those in such a position like the applicant « have a vital interest to obtain information which is indispensable to discover the truth about an important aspect of their personal identity ».

The woman’s lawyer, Julien Occhipinti, explains: « We have the impression to face a huge mental block by fear that donations decrease. The objective of our procedure is to have the State Council declare the French law unconventional regarding the ECHR. The lawmaker’s task will then draw conclusions and rewrite the law.”

Using the pen name of Audrey Kermalvezen, the young woman is the author of the book “Mes origines : une affaire d’état”(My origins: a State Business) and precises her actions: “I never considered the genitor of sperm as my father, a member of my family, but he makes up part of me. This is not an affective quest; it’s just to know where I come from, who I am. I would like to know what he looks like”. Among her requests, she would like to know if she and her brother, also born from a donor sperm, were conceived by the same donor. Today married with a man who was also born from a gamete donation, she indicates a potential risk of consanguinity due to the impossibility to obtain any information on her genitor and the one of her husband.

For Audrey Kermalvezen it is a race against the clock, since the Code of public health requires sperm banks (Cecos) to conserve the donor’s name for a minimum delay of 40 years. “Afterwards, we don’t know what will happen to the files”, she emphasizes. Even though no official numbers are available, it is generally estimated that between 50,000 and 70,000 infants are born via sperm donation in France since the first sperm banks were established in 1973.

Audrey participates in an association, Medically Assisted Anonymous, which fights for controlled and limited access to one’s origins, at political, legal, and media level. Founded in 2004 by Dr Pauline Tiberghien, doctor in reproduction, the association’s objective is to alert health professionals, legislators, and the public to the harmful consequences of total anonymity of gamete donations, whose irreversible character was included in the first French bioethical law in 1994.

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