The desire of the children born through techniques of Assisted reproduction which included donors of ova or sperm to know its origin drives a wave of changes in legislation that regulates the confidentiality of data worldwide. The debate has arrived in Spain, where the obligatory anonymity of the donors governs and where two of the major relevant entities in the field prepare opinions in this regard, some reports that are not yet known but that presumably will be contradictory: the Spanish Fertility Society, in favor of maintaining anonymity, and the Committee of Bioethics of Spain, supporter of lifting it.
At the base of the regulatory change resides a cultural transformation that makes infertility no longer a stigma, and that families formed from these techniques are considered normal, as well as the growing will of the descendants for know the identity of their biological parents and, in some cases, know them and establish new types of relationships. A search that genetic tests and large DNA banks accessible over the Internet have made it much easier to perform.
Doctors and Spanish clinics are concerned that abolishing anonymity will sink donations in a country that is at the forefront of Europe in assisted reproduction techniques. According to the latest data from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), referring to 2014, Spain was where more children were born that year in the continent through these techniques, 27,320. The country also represents 30,576, 54% of donations of eggs from Europe, not counting the United Kingdom.
The doctor Rocío Núñez Calonge, who has been working in assisted reproduction for 35 years, and the legal advisor of the Spanish Fertility Society (SEF), Fernando Abellán, defend the continuity of the Spanish model that guarantees the confidentiality of the identity of gamete donors because "it has worked 30 years without problems "and has turned the country into one of the world leaders in the field.
New Zealand professor Ken Daniels, one of the world's leading experts in reproductive technology, author of more than 150 articles and book chapters, who has advised governments and official committees in 14 countries, says, instead, in telephone conversation with EL PAÍS, that the path to the abolition of anonymity is not only correct, but inevitable due to social change. "The culture of secrecy is questionable from an ethical point of view, and attitudes towards donation have changed for many reasons, perhaps the most important is that now it is an acceptable way to build a family." Knowing the identity of the donor does not imply that the donor acquires legal responsibility regarding the offspring. That is, it does not make him father or mother, says Daniels, who has discussed this week with Calonge and Abellán in a day sponsored by the SEF and the Association for the Study of the Biology of Reproduction held at the College of Physicians of Madrid .
Initially anonymity was the norm. The first country to eliminate it, in the mid-1980s, was Sweden. But the change has accelerated in recent years and there are already more than twenty countries that have vetoed or reduced it to an option. Among them, good part of the north and center of Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Portugal did it last year and in the United States there are clinics that only accept donors who renounce it.
New Zealand professor Ken Daniels is against the fact that donors charge, after having observed in their research that there are children who do not behave well that there was a certain economic element in their conception, believes that the generalization of DNA tests makes them increasingly useless the anonymity And, at the same time, it causes the chances of the family secret to come to light by accident to increase, something that is considered particularly harmful from the psychological point of view.
Daniels tells the story of a 70-year-old woman who some time ago discovered that she had been conceived through a donation of sperm, a technique older than that of ovules. Through genetic tests, he located the family of the donor, they met, and now they consider themselves to function as "an extended family". The woman, who has also located another biological "half sister" of the same donor, had the opportunity to talk about the issue with her elderly mother a few years ago. This, he says, Daniels, said: "And we thought that we had left with ours …".
"In Spain, the change of model does not seem justified at the moment, because the current regulation has been shown balanced and flexible to protect patients, their children and donors.The Constitutional endorsed the regulation in 1999 and there is no judicial conflict or extrajudicial, which shows that there is no social need to vary, "says Abellán. Spanish law allows the medical history of donors to be known and identified when there is a risk to the baby's life, adds Núñez Calonge, who fears, in addition that the loss of anonymity would produce "a significant decrease" in the number of donors such as, affirms, it has happened in other countries.
Change the profile
Daniels says, however, that his research in Sweden and others in the United Kingdom show that although in the short term this decline occurs, in the medium term it recovers and even exceeds the number of donors who had anonymity. "There is a lot of misinformation on this issue, but the results are clear," he insists. What does happen, says the professor at the University of Canterbury, is a change in the type of donors. From a normally younger profile, of students, it is passed on to another more mature average, with their children and families, who observe the fertility problems of third parties in another way. If the donors of a confidential system are asked if they would continue to be donors in case of anonymity being eliminated, it is normal that the majority answer is no, because they have been attracted by the confidential model, says Daniels. The key for him is that the new rule attracts different people, who value transparency in this field.
Núñez Calonge agrees that the children should be explained that they have been conceived through a donation of gametes. "But we do not see the need to know the donor." Paternity is given by the parents who raise the children and the environment where it grows, not by the sperm or eggs from which they come.There is no study that demonstrates that the suppression of the Anonymity is advantageous for those born by donation ".
Daniels rejects it. The conclusions of their studies suggest that "secrecy in families is dangerous and negative," and that more and more adult descendants want to know the identity of donors and, on occasion, know them. "There are important psychological reasons why they want to do it and they have a right, they did not intervene in the decisions that led to their conception, and the adults who did do so were weighing the needs of the children or interested (by choosing anonymity) mainly in protecting yourself from a possible stigma of infertility? "
The professor affirms that the vision of the doctors and the clinics is centered in the patients and in the process of reproduction, and that it is normal that their instinctive reaction is to preserve a model that, from that perspective, works. But the success of the techniques, he continues, has generated a large number of families, and it is the children and their desire to know their biological ascendants who are driving the change.
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