Journal Article

‘No Harm, no Foul’: A Child’s Right to Know their Genetic Parents

Mhairi Cowden

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 26, issue 1, pages 102-126
Published in print April 2012 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online January 2012 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI:
‘No Harm, no Foul’: A Child’s Right to Know their Genetic Parents

Show Summary Details


In many countries, including Australia, governments have legislated against anonymous gamete donation. A recent Australian Senate inquiry has reinforced this position and has supported non-anonymous donation grounded in a child's right to know the identity of their genetic parents. This article will consider the main reasons for the existence of such a right and will argue that it must first be shown that there exists a right to know the nature of one's conception before a right to identifying information regarding one's donor can be properly respected. The existence of such a right requires that the principle of ‘no harm, no foul’ is false in the case of non-disclosure of a child’s genetic origins. Establishing this is imperative to guide Australian legislation regulating and protecting a child's right to know their genetic parents. In this paper, I consider two arguments to overcome no harm, no foul – the argument from risk of harm and the argument from respect. If no harm, no foul does not hold, then the state in Australia will hold a duty not only to allow donor-conceived children access to identifying information regarding their donors but also a duty to ensure disclosure regarding the nature of the child’s conception in the first place.

Journal Article.  11058 words. 

Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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