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Germany Decides to Allow Donor Identification

This article is a good indicator for understanding that there is a process to legal actions, and that laws change, usually after many years. Once we realize after the fact, that it actually might be a good thing to know our child's genetic origins, it still feels like a betrayal to the donors. I'm curious if I'm the only mother of a donor conceived child who thinks and feels like this?

At the time of our children's conception, we were focused on one thing; to make/have a baby. We went into an agreement with an anonymous third party who generously offered to help us achieve our goals. We all kept our end of the agreement. It was a success for all three parties; the parents, the donor and the child. A life was born, a family was made.

I can't help but think about the parents who achieved a similar goal via adoption. They have little or no genetic background of their child, and the birth mother and father are almost always anonymous. I wonder how all of this information will disseminate legally or not through our society over the next generation. 

All I know is that keeping open and honest communication between yourself and your donor conceived child is the best approach of all. Information, laws and attitudes change all the time, but the one constant that doesn't change is the intention of a loving and respectful relationship with ourselves, our children and our anonymous donors.

German court decision raises more questions than answers

February 2015

By Dr Petra Thorn

On 28 January this year the German Federal Court of Justice decided in a landmark court case that donor conceived people have the right to access the identity of their donor - independent of the offspring's age.

The decision is the outcome of decades of legal challenges over donor anonymity in Germany.

Since 1989, there have been several court cases whose outcomes indicated that children have a right to access their genetic origin. And in 2013, a German higher court granted this right explicitly to a young woman conceived by donor insemination for the first time.

In January this year, the Federal Court of Justice confirmed this right and, unexpectedly, also ruled that the right to access the donor's identity is independent of the age of the child.

In this most recent court case, the parents of two children aged 12 and 17, appealed to the Court of Justice after the clinic refused to provide the donor's identity. At the time of treatment, the parents had signed a document with the clinic indicating they had no interest in the donor's identity. However, as the children grew older, they wanted to retrieve this information.

The clinic did not provide the donor's identity as they had granted the donor anonymity unless a court decision overruled this. The parents therefore appealed to the State Court in Hannover, which rejected the appeal saying that disclosure of identity would only be possible after the children turned 16 - the age at which adopted children in Germany can access information on their biological origins. The parents then took the case to the Federal Court of Justice.

The subsequent decision of the Court of Justice is a good basis to prepare further legal and logistical changes. At the same time, however, it also indicates the challenges ahead.

For example, confusion has already appeared over the effect of the recent ruling on legal paternity. In Germany, although parents cannot contest paternity once they have both agreed to donor insemination, the child can. So far in Germany there has never been a case in which a child has contested the legal paternity of his or her father after donor insemination. And most, if not all, court cases initiated by donor conceived people in other countries have concerned access to the identity of the donor, not the desire for the donor to become a legal parent.

Nevertheless, in media contributions last week, there were several misleading articles indicating, or at least suggesting, that donors now run a greater risk of becoming the legal parent. This is simply not correct as family law has not been changed. The risk remains the same and no donor recruited through the medical system in Germany has ever become a legal parent.

At the same time, sperm donors still do not enjoy full legal protection in Germany. For example, in the case of lesbian parents who are not in a legal relationship and who, therefore, cannot adopt a child conceived through donor insemination, as well as in the case of single mothers, the donor runs the risk of legal paternity with all consequences including visitation rights for the child. Donors should enjoy full legal protection independent from the sexual orientation or the civil status of the recipient women.

Another issue is that there was no statement by the court regarding the fact that, in the past, donors were ensured anonymity. This decision raises the question of whether donors will become identifiable even though they donated at a time when doctors typically informed them that they would remain anonymous. This seems tantamount to a retrospective removal of anonymity.

Several other questions remain:

  • If young children can access their donor's anonymity, what happens in those cases where children are not yet aware of their donor conception - can parents claim rights to the donor's identity?
  • If young children would like to meet the donor, what are helpful procedures to ensure that this contact is a positive experience for everybody involved?
  • It is interesting that prior to this court case, adopted children had more rights enshrined in legislation than donor-conceived children. Now, children conceived by donor insemination seem to have more rights than adopted children who still have to wait until they are 16 to access information about their origins. What does this mean for adopted children?

Germany is lacking a comprehensive legal framework for donor insemination and, once again, this court decision has only highlighted the challenges this presents. German legislators now have the task to tackle this and to initiate legal changes that respect the rights and needs of every party involved in donor insemination.

Link to Original Source 


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Skin Cells to Help IVF Couples; No Donor Needed

Wow Science is amazing, especially cutting edge genetics. Read on, be inspired!  

Infertile couples who cannot produce their own sex cells may finally be able to have children through IVF after scientists achieved a key breakthrough in making sperm and eggs from skin cells.

For the first time, researchers have converted human skin cells in a laboratory into the “primordial germ cells” normally found within the testes and ovaries, which develop into mature sperm and eggs. It is the first and most crucial stage in making male and female sex cells in a test tube.

Eventually, scientists hope to make sperm cells from a man’s skin and eggs from a woman’s so that infertile couples who cannot produce their own sex cells or “gametes” could still have biological children following IVF, the researchers said.

The development could also lead to a better understanding of the “epigenetic” changes within human cells that contribute to ageing and cancer because of the insights it will give scientists about how adult human skin cells can be reprogrammed into sperm and eggs, said Professor Azim Surani of the University of Cambridge.

“I’m extremely excited. This is the first step in demonstrating that we can make primordial germ cells without putting them into patients to verify they are genuine. I think it would probably take between five and seven years to reach that point, and several years after that before they can be used to treat patients,” Professor Surani said.

Scientists in Japan had already shown that it is possible to produce sex cells from the skin cells of laboratory mice and that these eggs and sperm can be fertilised to produce viable, healthy offspring when placed back into the ovaries of surrogate mothers. However, no one until now had been able to show that it was possible to pass the first stage of this process with human skin cells. It was achieved by first inducing the skin cells into embryonic-like stem cells and then switching on a key gene called Sox17 to trigger their conversion to primordial germ cells, Professor Surani said.

The next stage will be to produce synthetic testes or ovaries as simple “organoids” growing in a laboratory dish in which the primordial germs cells will grow and divide into mature sperm and eggs.

The development could also lead to a better understanding of the “epigenetic” changes within human cells that contribute to ageing and cancer

The development could also lead to a better understanding of the “epigenetic” changes within human cells that contribute to ageing and cancer (Rex)

“As far as I know there are no existing regulations saying that we can’t do this sort of work,” Professor Surani said. “We’re going to keep working on it and if we reach a point where we are very close to making gametes then I think we will actually ask the university ethical committee first.”

A key feature of the study, published in the journal Cell, was that the human primordial germ cells became stripped of the chemicals surrounding the DNA of the chromosomes thought to be responsible for the epigenetic changes a cell undergoes as it develops.

This will lead to a better understanding of ageing and cancer because primordial germ cells are effectively immortal due to their role in ensuring that genetic information is passed on through the generations, Professor Surani said. “It’s not just about making sperm and eggs for infertility, which would be good, but it also has implications for germ-cell tumours as well as the understanding of this epigenetic reprogramming, which is quite unique, you don’t see it anywhere else,” Professor Surani said.

“Germ cells provide an enduring link between all generations, carrying genetic information from one generation to the next,” he said.

“The erasure of epigenetic information ensures that most, if not all, epigenetic mutations are erased, which promotes ‘rejuvenation’ of the lineage and allows it to give rise to endless generations. These mechanisms are of wider interest towards understanding age-related diseases,” he added.

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This is National Infertility Awareness Week - "Nobless Oblige"

In honor of and their tireless efforts for the last 25 years, we are giving away 7 of our hardcover keepsake children's books to the infertility awareness community! Enter to win here: Infertile couples who have to use fertility treatments to get pregnant usually don’t need to go to the extent of using a third party donor – but some do

April 20th-26th, 2014 in the United States, is National Infertility Awareness Week. And to participate in this event, we created an infographic we'd like to share with you titled "Resolve to Know More About Parenting After Infertility." (scroll down to view) Infertile couples who have to use fertility treatments to get pregnant usually don’t need to go to the extent of using a third party donor – but some do, like us. We are the fortunate ones. And this reminds us of the old French saying "Noblesse oblige" which literally translates to imply that with wealth, power, and prestige come responsibilities. A more broadly accepted definition is a general obligation for the more fortunate to help the less fortunate. And as in our case, for those of us who have been there, suffering alongside all the other infertile couples, we understand. However, because we did succeed, and others didn't, we can only understand up to a point. We will never really understand or know the heartbreaking pain of those that didn't succeed. Empathy can only go so far, but awareness goes further, and this is where we can help.

Because of infertility awareness and the advances of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) the number of donor conceived births are increasing worldwide. The climate for openness on this topic has also been increasing with the number of support groups and networks for parents and their children ( and Donor Sibling Registry, and Donor Conception Network UK). Parents of donor conceived children are not alone, and talking about it and sharing awareness about it with your family, friends and most importantly your child could clearly be considered an "oblige." 

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) approximately 12% of fertility patients use donor eggs and embryos. And an estimated 30,000-60,000 children born in this country via artificial insemination are from donor sperm. Those are only two of the findings included in our new infographic. (see below, and share) This infographic advocates the importance for parents to tell their donor conceived children about their unique beginnings. Parents who used an egg donor, or a sperm donor go through quite a different process in order to conceive, but are similar in that one of the child’s parents is not genetically related. This is where the crux of disclosure becomes important. Factual genetic information is something you want your child(ren) to be aware of. Not just for physical appearance and medical reasons, but also as an opportunity for parents to present “honesty and trust” early on as the foundation of their own family culture.

When a child is conceived this way, parents must decide whether to tell their child or keep this information private. This may be a difficult choice to make for various reasons and sometimes parents do not know where to begin. Parents may ask “why” and “how” and “when?” At first, the thought of telling your child about their donor origins may seem like a difficult topic to broach, but it doesn’t have to be. In our experience raising our own donor conceived children, along with research, data and inquiry from professional family psychologists have all concluded, that telling your child about their genetic origins at an early age, is best for the child.

That is what inspired us to write and illustrate our own children’s book “How We Became a Family” (for ages 2-10). We wanted to write a book that we could read to our children that included the facts of nature, science, the help of a donor and the possibility of a multiple birth. And we want to help you, other parents like us, who have struggled with infertility to struggle less, and to be at ease with telling your child early on, one step at a time. Our children’s book “How We Became a Family” is a tool that helps parents begin the process of telling in an easy way.”


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Canada Funds IVF For Infertil Couples

Ontario to fund in-vitro fertilization with a caveat — one embryo at a time to cut risky multiple birthsivf_-_process

Above photo, Microscope: a 3-day-old, 8-cell embryo created through in vitro fertilization is held in place with a pipette (left) while a drill makes a hole in the right wall of the embryo shell at Abington Reproductive Medicine, in Abington, Pennsylvania, during an embryo screening process.
 | April 9, 2014 7:37 PM ET
The Ontario government announced Thursday it will become only the second province in Canada to fund in-vitro fertilization [IVF] for people unable to have children otherwise, a move specialists have long urged to help curb the country’s epidemic of risky multiple births. The province will pay for the cost of one “cycle” of IVF treatment per patient suffering from “all forms of infertility,” said Deb Matthews, the Ontario Health Minister. The government will also set up an advisory body to ensure high-quality practices are followed, including ensuring that only one embryo is used per treatment. So-called single-embryo transfer has  been shown elsewhere to cut the number of twins, triplets and other multiples that result. Patients paying for the service out of pocket now usually have two or more embryos transferred to increase their chances of pregnancy.
“Supporting the safe use of modern IVF treatment will result in fewer high risk pregnancies – while at the same time helping thousands of Ontarians realize their dream of having their own family,” Ms. Matthews said in a statement. Critics, though, say taxpayers will essentially be tackling a problem created by the for-profit fertility field, which is now holding governments “to ransom” — and call IVF funding a generally questionable allocation of scarce health dollars. The government said the new policy would cover the cost of IVF for 4,000 more people a year – facing both “medical and non-medical” impediments to having children – at an estimated annual cost of about $50 million. Word that Ontario would join Quebec in more widely financing the procedure — which costs in the range of $10,000 — was welcomed heartily by patients and fertility doctors.
“Patients … are absolutely thrilled,” said Gloria Poirier, acting head of the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada. “[To afford IVF] some people are remortgaging their house, some people are not buying their house, some people are getting their inheritance from their parents early. It’s a huge financial burden.” Art Leader, an Ottawa fertility doctor who co-authored an advisory report that urged the Liberals in 2009 to pay for IVF, said he was “delighted” the government is going ahead with the idea. “It’s the smart thing to do, in terms of cost savings and avoiding twins and higher-order multiples,” said Dr. Leader. “And it’s also the right thing to do because these people suffer from an illness.… Infertility is recognized as a disease.” But Amir Attaran, a professor of law and population health at the University of Ottawa who filed a human rights complaint over the lack of IVF funding, said he is skeptical about the announcement, saying the Liberals made a similar promise in 2007 and didn’t deliver on it. The province also received expert advice in 2009 that the most cost-effective approach is to fund three in-vitro cycles per patient, not just one, said Prof. Attaran. The number of multiples born in Canada has soared in the last few decades as IVF and other fertility treatments have become increasingly popular, though the rate dipped slightly in 2012. Multiples have a greater risk of complications at birth and long-term health problems, their treatment assumed by the public health-care system.
When Quebec began funding IVF in 2010 — with the proviso that only one embryo could be transferred per “cycle” — the rate of multiple births from the treatments dropped to 7.9% from 30%, which experts say has saved hundreds of millions of dollars. The program has proven more popular than expected, though, with Quebec spending $60-million a year for about 8,000 treatments. The province began a review of the policy last year, as some doctors questioned whether single mothers, same-sex couples and others with no medical infertility problems should be eligible. Perhaps more fundamentally, fertility specialists ought not hold the medicare system “to ransom” by agreeing to restrict the number of embryos only if the procedure was covered by medicare, said Francoise Baylis, a bioethicist at Dalhousie University and long-time expert on the field.“Doctors should practice good medicine,” said Prof. Baylis. “You should not be creating multiple births, and you can’t turn around and say to the government ‘the only way for me to practice good medicine is for you to fund it.’ ”
It is not the industry or physicians who are resisting single-embryo transfer, however, it is financially stretched patients who want the best chance at pregnancy with each treatment, said Dr. Leader.
Prof. Baylis also said funding fertility treatment should not be a priority in light of the many other, more pressing demands on the system — from the need for more family doctors to making medication affordable for everyone. But Sara Cohen, a Toronto-based fertility lawyer, said there is no reason why assisted reproduction should be considered less important than any other service funded by medicare. “It isn’t appropriate to pick and choose which types of health care ought to be funded,” she said. “It also doesn’t sit well with me that individuals who have the means to access treatment are better able to build their families when faced with infertility than are individuals without the means to do so.” Ontario actually does fund about 2,000 IVF treatments a year currently, but only for women whose fallopian tubes are blocked because of disease or surgery, said Dr. Leader. Another 6,000 IVF treatments are paid for by the patients themselves, he said. Read Full Article here:  
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