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Sperm-donor identity decision

February 6, 2013

A German court has decided that children of anonymous sperm donors have the right to know the names of their fathers. However, it remains unclear if the plaintiff involved in the case will ever find out the truth.

Investigating sperm quality of fertile men(Photo: dpa)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The regional appeals court in the town of Hamm ruled on Wednesday that 21-year-old Sarah P had the right to know the identity of her father.

"The interest of the plaintiff in ascertaining her parentage is assessed to be higher than the interests of the defense and the right to a nondisclosure of donor information," the court ruled.

The plaintiff’s counsel had argued that all children born to sperm donors should have the right to find out the names of their fathers. The young woman had known for four years that her real father had been a sperm donor. She set out to learn his identity from a sperm bank in the city of Essen and was supported in her case by Germany’s Association of Donor Children.

Sarah P declined to comment on the case. The court ruled that the doctor concerned had, under questioning, contradicted his argument that all of the data had been destroyed after 10 years - admitting that some information had been retained.

A hollow victory?

Despite the ruling, reproductive specialist Thomas Katzorke - the doctor involved - claimed that the verdict was "purely theoretical."

Defense counsel Markus Goldbach said that corresponding steps would be taken at state court level.

The Federal Association of Reproductive Medical Centers described the decision as improving the legal position not only for children of sperm donors, but also of doctors.

Because physicians would be obliged the share the information, the court decided, they could not be held culpable for breaking doctor-patient confidentiality by doing so.

In 1989, Germany’s Constitutional Court decided that individuals should have the right to know their genetic identity. A further ruling on tissue donation in 2007 declared that files on specific donations must be held for 30 years.

rc/mkg (dpa, epd, KNA Reuters)