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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1524


Senator ELSTOB —Is the Minister representing the Attorney-General concerned that a dilemma will arise in the artificial insemination by donor program whereby children conceived by artificial insemination by donor might wish or urgently require information regarding their natural parent or parents? Is there provision in the program to accommodate such a situation if it arises? Is the Minister satisfied that those ethic committees, professionals and couples involved in the program, have fully embraced the implications of this issue?


Senator GARETH EVANS —As the honourable senator will be aware, the regulation of medical procedures such as AID is not a matter directly of Commonwealth concern but, equally, it is one that the Commonwealth has been closely monitoring through its participation in the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. A number of State inquiries have examined the topic of AID and its regulation. Most recently the New South Wales Law Reform Commission issued a discussion paper on human artificial insemination as part of its overall reference on matters related to what may loosely be described as artificial conception. All of those bodies which have reported on this area have addressed the particular issue to which Senator Elstob adverts and that is the question of access to information in relation to the natural parents or the natural donor. They have addressed it as a crucial and sensitive area.

The extent to which records of donors are kept and the extent to which access to those records is regulated are things which vary from one program to the next. The only legislative regulation of artificial insemination by donors in Australia is, I understand, presently contained in the Victorian Infertility (Medical Procedures) Act 1984. That Act provides that hospitals and practitioners are to keep records on various matters including prescribed particulars in relation to the donor of semen. A central register of these details is to be kept by the Health Commission with access to those details regulated by the Minister for Health. In turn, the Minister for Health, or the Secretary to the Health Commission, can allow certain persons access to that information but there is a proviso that there cannot be access to identifying information unless the person concerned-the donor-consents to such access. Under that regime a person can get access to the information but only with the consent of the donor in question. As yet that Act has not been proclaimed, mainly, I understand, due to the need to draft regulations on a number of complex matters relating to the Act's administration. However, it does remain in existence as what is thought in at least one jurisdiction to be an appropriate legislative regulation of this matter to which Senator Elstob adverts.