Sperm donation: Trials and tribulations


Cameron MacLeod
Focus on Adoption magazine

When do the rights of the child trump the rights of anonymous donors?

All that Olivia Pratten knows about her biological father is that he was Caucasian, a medical student, had a sturdy build, brown hair and type A blood. He was the sperm donor for Pratten’s mother, Shirley, who sought artificial insemination when she learned that her husband was infertile from bladder surgery complications.

Born in BC but now living in Toronto, Pratten has been fighting for more than a decade to obtain more information about her biological father through records about her conception. But, historically, donor records had been destroyed after six years and Pratten’s mother was told by her doctor that her donor‘s records were gone.

While it may be too late for her, Olivia Pratten wants to change access to donor information and ensure that sperm donor records are kept indefinitely so that other children of donors have access to information about their biological parents.

Pratten, a journalist with Canadian Press, has launched a lawsuit seeking information that is “vital to her own health and to ease the psychological stress of not knowing who her biological father is,” according to court documents. After a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that put provinces back in control of licensing of clinics and donors, her case waits to be heard in the B.C. Supreme Court. Pratten hopes that the courts will rule in favour of access to donor information.

Her lawyer, Joseph Arvay, argues that children conceived by sperm and egg donations have the same right to know who their biological parents are as adopted children, and that both groups of children are equally deserving of information such as medical history and cultural and religious identity.

“Fundamentally, those needs [of donor-conceived people] are no different from the needs of adopted people,” he added. “Barring donor children from accessing information about their genetic background amounts to discrimination.”

Ms. Pratten does not know the man who donated his sperm, but she does know that he is likely now a doctor in his 50s or 60s, possibly with a family of his own. As for the rights of men like him who donated sperm in the past, she said she’ll let the courts decide.