Tuesday, October 28, 2008

First ever class action lawsuit filed by sperm donor offspring in Canada

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (October 28, 2008)

FIRST EVER CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT FILED BY SPERM DONOR OFFSPRING IN CANADA

COURT ISSUES INJUNCTION TO PREVENT THE DESTRUCTION OF RECORDS PENDING THE
HEARING OF THE LAWSUIT

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 http://www.arvayfinlay.com.

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
stationery.

“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
Pratten.

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
later.”

“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
proceeding.

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
http://www.arvayfinlay.com.

For Media Inquiries and Contact Information for Interviews, please call
Olivia Pratten at 1.646.300.5068, or by email at opratten@gmail.com

Or contact Joseph Arvay, Q.C. at 604.689.4421 jarvay@arvayfinlay.com

2 comments:

Ungrateful Little Bastard said...

Wow. I'll be keeping an eye on this

Rob Hunter said...

Hi everyboy that reads this, just wanted to point you all in the direction of the CBC website to leave your comments on the story - the discussion is a little one-sided right now and I think that's a shame