Gaping holes in law covering info for donor-conceived people

Stuff 25 May 2021
 From the mid-1970s through 2004, an unknown number of people were created through anonymous donor conception in New Zealand. In some cases, no record of our parentage was ever written down. In others, original records were subsequently destroyed.

Many of us have spent – and continue to spend – years of our lives searching to complete our identities, without any assistance from the government or from the medical profession that enabled our creation.

That was supposed to change with the 2004 passage of the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology (HART) Act.

The HART law mandated that, from 2005 onwards, identifying information about all egg and sperm donors would be recorded and maintained for their donor children to access once they turned 18. For those of us born before 2005, it offered a voluntary register to help connect us to our donors.

The law made New Zealand a world leader in this area, and should have become an ongoing source of pride in a country where our indigenous communities have long understood the significance of whakapapa. Unfortunately, implementation of the HART law fell short of the ideals espoused within it.

The government never ran a nationwide outreach campaign about the voluntary register’s existence.

Attempting to join the register was demoralising – like sending information into a black hole. After waiting a lifetime for a path forward from the government, we did not receive so much as a confirmation of receipt from the department running the register. This failure could have been avoided had the government sought the input of donor-conceived people like us.

Without an effective public option, we continued our searches privately. Some of us have discovered our biological parents thanks to commercial online DNA testing sites. For this we are grateful, but this private workaround has brought its own challenges.

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