Anonymity for sperm donors not up to the courts, Crown argues


Vancouver— The Canadian Press

It's understandable that a woman who was conceived through donated sperm wants to learn her biological father's identity, but not knowing his name hasn't deprived her of her constitutional rights, a provincial government lawyer argued Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court.

Olivia Pratten is suing the province to have B.C.’s Adoption Act thrown out in favour of more inclusive laws that give the children of donors the same rights as adopted kids.

She wants sperm donor records kept and maintained so that offspring of artificial insemination have the ability to learn their roots when they turn 18. The move would effectively eliminate anonymous donation.

“There's no doubt Ms. Pratten has a sympathetic claim and the issues she raises are important,” Crown lawyer Leah Greathead told the Vancouver court.

But the 28-year-old is not being treated as a second-class citizen, she said.

“We disagree. We say that connection there has not caused any deprivation of the right to life, liberty or security of person.”

The College of Physicians and Surgeons is also named in the suit.

Ms. Pratten's lawyer earlier argued children of sperm or egg donors should know their medical history and have a safeguard to prevent them from unknowingly engaging in a sexual relationship with a half-sibling.

The Crown contends that major policy decisions, such as ending sperm donor anonymity, shouldn't be left up to the courts to decide.

Further, Ms. Greathead said federal legislation already governs the reproductive industry and provides part of what Ms. Pratten seeks. The Assisted Human Reproduction Act of 2004 prevents donor records from being destroyed but still allows donors to remain anonymous.

That legislation, however, is currently tied up in its own protracted legal challenge. Quebec is fighting the act in the Supreme Court of Canada, arguing it treads on provincial jurisdiction.

Conflict could arise if the B.C. court rules one way now and then the country's highest court makes a different decision, Ms. Greathead said.

And there are other issues that might arise from a ruling in Ms. Pratten's favour, she said, including the impact it could have on the privacy rights of donors who were promised anonymity in the past.

The province revised its legislation in 1996 giving adopted children the right to learn the identity of their biological parents. However, the law allows parents to block a child's ability to learn their identity if the child was born before the new law took effect. Ms. Greathead said abolishing anonymity for sperm donors, as Ms. Pratten is seeking, would give donor offspring more rights than adopted children.

She said the sperm donation system has changed since Ms. Pratten was born, with most semen imported from the United States. That's because there's only one sperm bank in Canada, Toronto's ReproMed institute, which currently has 40 only Canadian donors in its catalogue.

Dr. Alfonso Del Valle, who has run ReproMed since 1990, said he welcomes further positive changes to the system, but not at the hands of the courts. A thorough scientific study is required, as opposed to changes born of “emotional” pursuits, he said.

“One cannot equate the process of adoption to that of sperm or egg donation; that's an absolute absurd,” he said in an interview from his Toronto clinic.

In the case of women using sperm donation, he said they have had the ability to select a rigorously pre-screened donor who altruistically wanted to assist people that were unable to conceive otherwise.

Ms. Pratten, a journalist with The Canadian Press in Toronto, has battled for more than a decade to learn her own father's identity, but she said that's no longer her goal. The Vancouver doctor who inseminated her mother said he destroyed those records in the 1990s because at the time he wasn't required to keep such documents for more than six years.

Ms. Pratten said she now just hopes for new legislation that includes donor offspring, and that every day since the case has been in the news she's received messages from people like her pledging their support.


Every child deserves the right to have their parents DNA information recorded in their birth certificate information available only to the child, the parents and for other legitimate appropriate use.

Now, 20% of all birth certificates have either NO father or the wrong father on the birth certificate, those odds may get worse.

Olivia Pratten however should look at the

Rob Hunter and Kevin Martin also have a Cperm donor father and they share a striking resemblance to Olivia Pratten