chapter  10
20 Pages

The identification of ‘parents’ and ‘siblings’: New possibilities under the reformed Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act

ByCAROLINE JONES

The reported need for, or ‘right’ to, information about the ‘truth’ regarding one’s genetic origins has significant purchase in twenty-first century AngloWelsh legal discourse, both within and outside the specific context of donor conception. In terms of genetic links, what could at one time only be inferred can now usually be proved, and on the basis of these findings relationships can be ascribed/created or denied. However, what is less clear is the extent to which the ‘fact’ of genetic relatedness should (in)form the basis of legal – and indeed social or kin – relationships between progenitors and offspring1

(these terms are used deliberately here to abstract genetic ‘facts’ from the legal and social meaning often ascribed to them, although it is acknowledged that these terms are not unproblematic). Within family law two issues are frequently run together: the ‘right’ to be a parent and the ‘right’ to know one’s genetic origins.2 In the context of assisted conception these issues are perhaps more accurately expressed as the claims to be legally recognised as a parent of a specific child, and for access to identifying information about one’s gamete donor(s); as although further non-identifying information has also been sought, for example in the case of Rose,3 this has not proved to be the focal point of most debates. Initial analysis of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (the

2008 Act), amending the 1990 Act of the same name, points towards the central role of consent provisions in both the construction of legal parenthood and in relation to gaining access to further information about one’s genetic origins. This approach arguably lends support to the thematic

1 See, e.g. M. Strathern, Kinship, Law and the Unexpected: Relatives Are Always a Surprise, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005; S. Boyd ‘Gendering legal parenthood: bio-genetic ties, intentionality and responsibility’ (2007) 25 Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice, 63-94.