21st January 2004
The British Fertility Society’s response to the announcements made today by Health minister Melanie Johnson.

The British Fertility Society is pleased that Public Health Minister, Melanie Johnson has clarified the Government’s position on the removal of anonymity of gamete and embryo donors from April 2005. However, the society does have concerns on this removal of anonymity on the number of donors who might be willing to come forward.

In 2002 the Society undertook an extensive consultation on removal of anonymity, details of this consultation can be found at: https://www.britishfertilitysociety.org.uk/press-release/publication-of-consultation-document-on-donor-anonymity-and-british-fertility-societys-response/. This review found that many members of the Society were concerned at the possible consequences of the removal of anonymity. Melanie Johnson herself said that she expected the number of donors to drop in the short term, so we are pleased that the Minister has guaranteed measures to attempt to safeguard donor numbers in the medium and long terms. However, the Society is concerned that the proposed removal of anonymity from April 2005 may not allow sufficient time to design and implement an effective education programme. The BFS will be happy to help in this matter. We would hope that if there is a significant drop in donors that Ministers will review the timescale. As yet we do not have full details of the proposed education initiatives, but we will be happy to work with Ministers and the Department of Health to ensure that adequate and effective measures are put in place.

Dr Alan Pacey of the British Fertility Society said

We welcome this clarification by Health Minister Melanie Johnson. The removal of donor anonymity will be of great benefit to the children born from donated sperm, eggs, and embryos.

We are however concerned that, as Melanie Johnson herself said, we will see a drop in the numbers of donors. There is a danger that if we cannot recruit donors we may find that many infertile couples will be unable to receive treatment. We are concerned that if this happens, some couple may seek treatment overseas.

If the government can commit sufficient resources to putting forward a positive view of donation, then we should be able to overcome this in the long term.

Review of HFEA Act

The British Fertility Society welcomes the review of the HFEA act. There have been many technical developments since the Act was first passed. This is a complex field with many ethical concerns. We will be pleased to work with the Department of Health, the HFEA, patient bodies and parliament as part of this review.

Dr Masoud Afnan, of the British Fertility Society said:

We welcome this review. This is a fast moving and complex field, and we must continually review the legislative framework.

For example, HFEA Chair Suzi Leather has already raised requirement for clinics to assess the welfare of the child, and also the well-being of children born as a result of Assisted reproduction. These are difficult issues for all of us working in the field, and we welcome the opportunity to review these, and other aspects of the legislation’.