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Author Topic: Class action lawsuit on sperm donor anonymity  (Read 3543 times)
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« on: October 28, 2008, 10:15:17 PM »

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (October 28, 2008)



A class action lawsuit was filed on October 24, 2008, by Olivia Pratten, the
representative plaintiff, on behalf of all people in the province of BC
conceived via anonymous sperm, egg and embryo donation or what is called
“gamete donation”. It is believed to be the first time a case of this sort
has been brought forward by donor offspring in Canada. The lawsuit is
against the Attorney General of British Columbia and the College of
Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia.

Today the British Columbia Supreme Court issued an injunction which orders
all persons who have records of gamete donation not to destroy such records
or redact them or transfer them out of the Province pending a further
hearing in the Supreme Court, at which time Ms. Pratten on behalf of the
class will seek a more permanent injunction to be in force until the trial
of this lawsuit is heard and decided.  For further details of this
injunction the public is urged to refer to

The lawsuit claims that the present law discriminates against persons who
were conceived as a result of gamete donation.  By contrast, adopted
children have, by law, certain legal rights and opportunities to know about
their biological parents that children conceived by way of gamete donation
simply do not enjoy.  The lawsuit is based on the guarantees of equality and
security of the person in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The lawsuit seeks the immediate and ultimately the permanent protection and
preservation of all files related to the practice of gamete donation in the
province of British Columbia.  Currently all information from health to
identifying information about the gamete donor, can be destroyed at whim by
the practicing physician after six years.  One woman included in the suit
already had her files destroyed.

“Farmers have kept better records on the artificial insemination of cattle
than the physicians in BC have kept on people like myself,” said Pratten,
now 26 years old.

In 2001, she was told that her biological father was healthy and that a
“verbal medical check had been done.”  The physician, Dr. Korn, gave the
minimal information of height, weight and hair color on a piece of hotel

“The issue of protecting the files and having my right to access their full
and complete information is one of principle to me.  I’m tired of having to
explain or defend my desire and my right to know this information,” said

Olivia, along with others in the suit, have attempted to gain information
and access of vital health information from various physicians in BC who
practiced donor insemination.  No one has managed to obtain information and
many have been told that the files are destroyed or will be destroyed if
further action was taken.

“It is completely unacceptable, if not outrageous, that the medical
establishment threatens to destroy medical files,” said Pratten.

In 2004, she was told by the Deputy Registrar of Ethics at the College that
her health files could be “shredded and incinerated” after six years from
the last medical contact with the patient.  In this case, the patient was
not Olivia, but her mother Shirley, who received the inseminations.

Ms. Pratten expects a positive response from at least some of the men who
were sperm donors at Dr. Korn’s clinic.  One such donor is Dwight Jones at
Dr. Korn’s clinic during the 1970s and 1980s who said, “It’s our obligation
to the offspring, and the perception that most donors are seeking anonymity
is not correct and certainly no reason to withhold their content decades

“Every Canadian adult has the right to truthful information about his or her
origins.  We all need to know who we are and where we come from.  It does
not matter whether we are adopted or conceived by gamete donation; we all
have the right to this information.  The Adoption Council of Canada supports
the right of all adults conceived by gamete donation to truthful information
about their origins,” said Wendy Rowney, vice‑president of the Adoption
Council of Canada.

“Our clients seek information that might be said to be of the most basic and
fundamental to the human condition.  Knowing about one’s biological origin
and thus their biological parent’s medical history, may be vital to our
client’s present and future health.  Nor is it any longer beyond the realm
of the probable that this information may be needed to ensure that they do
not inadvertently marry one of their siblings.  But perhaps, most important,
is that knowing about one’s ancestry, one’s very roots, is central to a
person’s self‑ identity,” says Joseph Arvay, who with Sean Hern, is counsel
for Ms. Pratten and the class once the action is certified as a class

On October 28, 2008, Chief Justice Donald Brenner of the British Columbia
Supreme Court issued an injunction directed to all persons in BC, whether
medical personnel or otherwise, preventing the destruction or transfer of
any records that have been created or maintained by persons who administered
artificial insemination.  For the exact terms see

Daughter of sperm donor seeks to know identity of biological father
By Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun,
Published: Monday, October 27, 2008
[or ]

The daughter of an anonymous sperm donor has filed a legal action against
the attorney general of B.C., seeking to change the rules that currently
deprive children born by way of "gamete donation" the identity and history
of one of their biological parents.

Olivia Pratten filed the proposed class action in B.C. Supreme Court,
claiming that the records relating to the identity of the biological parents
of an adopted person are preserved, but the records relating to a gamete
donor are only required to be preserved for six years.

Once destroyed, a person born by way of a donor cannot get the medical or
social history of a donor, and cannot learn crucial components of their
identity such as racial, cultural, religious and linguistic history, which
may cause psychological distress, the legal action claims.

"The information in the donor records could one day be vital to Olivia's
health," the court document says. "If the donor records are lost or
destroyed, that information will be lost for all time and Olivia's health
and safety could be compromised as a result."

Pratten, who seeks to have donor records preserved permanently, also seeks
to know the identity of her biological father. "That knowledge would
alleviate the psychological distress that Olivia experiences in not knowing
her biological origins," the legal action states.

"The differential treatment imposes a disadvantage on the plaintiff and
class members, in comparison with those people who are adopted," the court
document says.

"Many of the members of the class were conceived by gamete donation because
of the physical disability of one of their parents which resulted in his or
her infertility," the statement of claim says.

The legal action states those conceived by gamete donation are discriminated
against, violating protections enshrined under Canada's Charter of Rights
and Freedoms.

Vancouver lawyer Joe Arvay, a constitutional specialist, is handling the
lawsuit on behalf of Pratten and other potential class members.

For more than a decade, Pratten has advocated change in the area of
reproductive technologies and was featured in the CBC documentary "Genetic

In 1981, Pratten's mother visited a Vancouver doctor, Gerald Korn, now
retired, because her mother's husband was infertile; her mother was
impregnated with donor sperm through insemination. The mother informed her
daughter from an early age that she was conceived by way of donor

Pratten says the only information about her biological father disclosed by
Korn was that he was a healthy Caucasian medical student who had a stocky
build, brown hair, blue eyes and type A blood.

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