Types of known donation
There are various forms of known donation in the UK.
- Inter-family donation
- Friend or contact
- Straight surrogacy
An inter-family donor is a family member who agrees to donate their eggs or sperm to a relative for assisted reproduction purposes. This enables a family genetic connection between the child and the relative.
Inter-family donors can include: cousin, sister, brother, aunt or uncle and sometimes an inter-generational donation from a mother or father.
Inter-family and inter-generational donations are legal but restricted practices in the UK. This prevents consanguinity (otherwise known as incest).
A straight surrogacy arrangement is where a surrogate donates her own egg as well as carries the pregnancy. This means the surrogate is the child’s biological mother as well as the legal mother at birth under UK law.
A straight surrogacy arrangement can encompass privately arranged assisted conception or fertility treatment at a fertility clinic.
Straight surrogacy tends to be less common than gestational (host) surrogacy. This reflects the additional dynamics of a genetic connection between the surrogate and the child.
Do I need legal advice?
Known donation creates a range of complex legal and practical issues under UK fertility and family law. The legal issues and outcomes will depend upon individual circumstances, including marital status, conception arrangements and whether the parties entered into a known donor agreement.
Known donation arrangements require legal understanding and careful management from the outset to avoid unintended and unwanted legal outcomes and disputes concerning:
- Legal status and identity of a known donor or biological parent.
- Whether a known donor or biological parent is financially liable for a child.
- Whether a known donor or biological parent should acquire or exercise parental responsibility for a child.
- Whether a known donor or biological parent should spend time with a child or be involved in their care and upbringing.
As the donor is known to the recipient and may have an ongoing friendship or involvement following conception, it is also important to consider the associated emotional dynamics.
It is advisable to enter into a bespoke known donor agreement before conception to set out the relevant legal issues, manage expectations and arrangements in practice. Known donor agreements can be of important evidential benefit in the event of a subsequent dispute.
Disputes with a known donor about arrangements for a child can be hard fought and very distressing for all involved. They require specialist legal expertise and understanding of evolving known donor and assisted reproduction case law in the UK.
Friend or contact
A friend, colleague, neighbour or acquaintance can sometimes offer to donate their eggs or sperm for assisted reproductive purposes. They represent more of a ‘known quantity’ than gametes from an arms-length donor identifiable or non-identifiable donor.
Assisted conception can be arranged privately or through a fertility clinic, which provide a range of fertility treatments.
Motivations for known donation
There are a range of reasons for known donation, which include:
- Biological family connection.
- Biological legacy and identity purposes.
- Medical reasons (e.g. Turners Syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome).