HFEA agrees new policies about family donation and the number of families one donor can create

Yesterday, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) made two important decisions in relation to donation policies. This followed a comprehensive review and a three-month public consultation.


Family donation

Donation between family members can take two forms:

  • where the eggs and sperm are mixed between close genetic relatives (for example, a brother and sister); or
  • where the eggs or sperm are received from a relative to be used in place of their own eggs or sperm (for example, a woman donating eggs to her infertile sister).

We know of no cases in the UK of close genetic relatives mixing their eggs and sperm. If such a thing were ever requested, clinics would be able to use existing safeguards to refuse. However, the Authority was concerned there is no explicit ban on this kind of donation and was aware that the public shared this concern. We agreed to introduce guidance for clinics telling them not to mix the sperm and eggs of close genetic relatives.

The Authority decided that the second form of family donation, which does take place in UK clinics, is handled well by clinics. We agreed to work with professional bodies to produce best practice guidelines in this area.

The Authority also decided to require clinics to submit data on family donation so that a more accurate picture of its prevalence could be established.


Family limit

The family limit refers to the number of families a single donor can help to create, which the Authority decided to keep at the current limit of 10.

Whilst raising the limit may have increased the availability of donor sperm, there was little call to raise it. The Authority was persuaded by views expressed during the consultation that, for psychological reasons, a limit should be placed on the number of possible siblings that a donor-conceived person could expect to have. There is also a perception that a higher family limit would risk two genetically related siblings entering into a relationship without knowing they were related (although the actual risk of this remains very low).

A further decision on the issue of compensation will be made at an open Authority meeting in October.


Notes to editors

  • The Donation review aims to develop evidence-based policies which facilitate adequate, effective and safe services for donor recipients and people born as a result of donation. The public consultation ran from January to April 2011 and received responses from 890 people.
  • The HFEA is the independent regulator for IVF treatment and embryo research. Our role is to protect patients and defend standards, to drive improvement in the treatment and research sectors and to provide information to the public and policymakers about treatment and research. We are not an economic regulator.
  • The HFEA was set up in August 1991 as part of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.  The HFEA’s principal tasks are to license and monitor clinics that carry out in vitro fertilisation (IVF), artificial insemination (AI) and human embryo research.

For further information please contact the HFEA press office on 020 7291 8226 or email press.office@hfea.gov.uk

Page last updated: 14 July 2011