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

Jones, Caroline (2009) The identification of ‘parents’ and ‘siblings’: new possibilities under the reformed Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act In, Wallbank, Julie, Choudhry, Shazia and Herring, Jonathan (eds.) Rights, Gender and Family Law. Oxford, UK, Routledge GlassHouse pp. 219-238.

Record type: Book Section


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 thematicunification of these disparate issues. However, upon closer examination, the
complexities of these new provisions and the relevant Parliamentary debates point towards gendered dimensions at play, which are downplayed by the gender-neutrality of the statute and rights discourse in general. The focus of
this chapter, therefore, is the examination of key issues pertaining to the interest(s) in knowing one’s genetic origins, in the wider sense provided for by the 2008 Act. I use the term ‘interest’ here as my intention is not to add to the burgeoning literature debating donor-conceived children/persons’
purported ‘right’ to know per se, but rather to consider why identity, and in particular genetic information, is highlighted in this context; and also to consider what interests and crucially whose are promoted and protected by the legislative provisions. The fixation with the need for ‘truth’ around paternal ties rather than with maternal connections remains. Interestingly however, there is an identifiable inversion of the trend to protect a ‘recipient
family’ (of donor gametes) from incursions by their donor(s) to that of shielding the donor’s family (read ‘legal’ family) from interference by donor offspring, and by extension their family members. Furthermore, the grounds upon which this protection is justified – at least in the relevant Parliamentary debates – is largely gender specific. Therefore, while significant aspects of the 2008 Act are couched in gender-neutral terms, it is clear that the impetus for these changes occurred within highly gendered contexts.

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Published date: November 2009
Keywords: parents, siblings, donor-conceived, human fertilisation and embryology act 2008, truth, identity, gender, rights, family law, genetic origins, kinship


Local EPrints ID: 73608
ISBN: 9780415482677
PURE UUID: 8f21a908-2b0f-4905-ac2a-466ac8e613cf

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Date deposited: 10 Mar 2010
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 23:49

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Author: Caroline Jones
Editor: Julie Wallbank
Editor: Shazia Choudhry
Editor: Jonathan Herring

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