August 2021

ConnecteDNA ideas for law reform – our suggestions to the Law Commission

The Law Commission is the statutory independent body created to keep the law of England and Wales under review, and to recommend reform where it is needed. The aim of the Commission is to ensure that the law is fair, modern, simple and cost effective.

Every few years, the Law Commission undertakes a public consultation with a view to submitting a draft programme of law reform to the Lord Chancellor. The 13th Programme was agreed in 2017 and the Commissioners has recently consulted with a view to agreeing the 14th Programme. See the Law Commission’s suggested ideas for law reform on the Law Commission website.

The ConnecteDNA team was excited to see that, in the area of family law, Law Commission is interested in hearing about ideas for reform relating to assisted conception, and access to information about people’s origins. We have responded to the consultation and told the Law Commission about our research. You can download and read a summary of our response below:

Response to Law Commission Consultation on 14th Programme (PDF)

The final programme of suggested reforms is expected to be published during the first half of 2022. We hope that our suggestions will feature.

April 2022

Our presentation to the Socio-Legal Studies Association 2022 Annual Conference

Dr Caroline Redhead presented our paper, ‘Theories of relativity: donor conception in the age of direct to consumer genetic testing’ at the ‘Exploring Legal Borderlands’ panel at the SLSA annual conference last week.

The focus of the panel was the uncertainty and interactivity of legal borderlands, including the division between the formal and informal, law and non-law, and jurisdictional boundaries. Recognising that legal borders are often not clearly defined or static, examination of social practices falling within grey areas was encouraged, as well as a focus on the development of norms and concepts within or across legal borderlands.  Looking at legal borderlands in the context of direct-to-consumer genetic testing (DTCGT) and donor conception, our presentation discussed:

  • the borderland between tight regulation of assisted conception and the relative chaos of DTCGT;
  • the borderland between different legal jurisdictions – DTCGT does not stop at national borders;
  • how (if at all) borderlands between jurisdictions matter with the global reach of both donor conception and DTCGT; and 
  • the borderland between medicine and commerce: how do / should we regulate DTCGT?

Our presentation touched on the significance of genetic identity, considering the legal treatment of donor anonymity and comparing the legislative approach in different parts of the world. We also questioned the sufficiency of existing legal approaches to consent in the context of DTCGT, suggesting that the relational implications of genetic data need to be considered. New legal approaches to the challenges posed by digital technologies, such as dynamic consent, data stewardship, and relational theories of privacy offer food for thought. As does a movement away from the primacy of individual autonomy in the human rights context, opening the door for consideration of the rights of donor-conceived people as a distinct group.

We concluded by suggesting that;

  • Important legal issues fall between the cracks in the various legal borderlands surrounding DTCGT in the particular context of donor-conception (and, arguably, generally as well);
  • An internationally coherent approach to regulating assisted reproduction, and, in particular, disclosure of information about genetic identity, is urgently required; and
  • A review of our understandings of consent in the context of DTCGT, which sits legal borderland between medicine and commerce, is overdue and urgently required.