We have previously reported that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) had embarked upon a comprehensive review and a three month public consultation in relation to its policies on egg and sperm donation. The HFEA has now announced two important decisions on the back of that consultation process.

The first decision relates to donation between family members which can take two forms:  

  • where the egg and sperm are mixed between close genetic relatives (eg, a brother and sister); or
  • where the egg or sperm is received from a relative to be used in place of the individual’s own egg or sperm (eg, a woman donating eggs to her infertile sister).  

Although clinics could use existing safeguards to prevent the mixing of eggs and sperm between close genetic relatives, both the HFEA and the public were concerned that there was no explicit ban on the practice.

Accordingly, the HFEA will introduce guidance for clinics advising them not to do this. The Authority has no qualms about current practice relating to the second form of family donation but proposes to work with professional bodies to produce best practice guidelines. Clinics will soon be required to submit data on family donation to the HFEA so that a more accurate picture of prevalence can be obtained.

The second decision relates to the number of families a single donor can help to create and the HFEA decided to maintain a current limit of ten. This limits the number of half-siblings a donor-conceived child could possibly have and maintains at a very low level the risk that two half-siblings could unwittingly enter into a sexual relationship.

A further decision on the issue of payment to donors will be made in October this year.