Legal Aspects of Treatment

The practice of fertility treatment where sperm, eggs or embryos spend time outside the human body is governed by the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology (HART) Act 2004.

The Act starts by listing important principles, including the health and well being of children conceived using fertility treatments, the health safety and dignity of future generations, the health and well being of women having treatment, informed consent, consideration and respect for the needs, values and beliefs of Maori, and consideration and respect for ethical, spiritual and cultural perspectives in society.

In addition, the Act states that offspring conceived through the use of donor sperm or donor eggs should be made aware by their parents of their genetic origins, and be able to secure information about the donor and his or her identity.

For pregnancies arising from sperm or eggs donated after 20 August 2005, Fertility Associates is obliged to give the Registrar-General of Births Deaths and Marriages identifying information about the child, the donor, and the parents/guardians. After the age of 18 a child may ask the clinic or the Registrar-General for the identity of the donor, and this information will normally be given. The child may ask for the identity of other children conceived using the same donor, and the donor may ask for the identity of all persons born as a result of their donation. In these cases, both or all the parties need to agree before the information can be given. There are also provisions for children seeking information from the age of 16, and for parents to seek information about the donor and about other children born from the same donor.

For children conceived from sperm or eggs donated before August 2005, there is voluntary registration for children and donors that offers the same opportunities for information.

The HART Act has substantial penalties (fines and imprisonment) for paying for, or providing financial inducement for, donor sperm or donor eggs and for commercial surrogacy arrangements. Reimbursement of expenses is permitted. Selection of embryos on the basis of gender is prohibited (unless it is to prevent a genetic disorder or disease), as is any procedure or drug that might bring about sex selection.

A major aspect affecting IVF and sperm storage is that sperm, eggs and embryos cannot be stored for more than 10 years unless the person or couple storing the sperm, eggs or embryos gains permission to do so from the Ethics Committee of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ECART).

The Status of Children Act 2004 defines who are a child’s legal parents when donor sperm or donor eggs are used. The donor has no rights or liabilities. The woman bearing the child is the legal mother and her partner at the time of birth is a legal parent with rights of guardianship.

Click here to find the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Act (HART Act) 2004 and the Status of Children Amendment Act 1987.