‘I’d rather know’: Kerri has as many as 600 brothers and sisters. They can finally learn the truth about their origins

For decades, Kerri Favarato was denied access to her earliest medical records.

They are stored at the back of the Queensland Fertility Group, where she was born in 1982, or in the garage of her treating doctor. But legally they are not hers. She was a product of the fertility clinic, not a patient of it.

“They said the donor code (which identifies her father) was not technically my personal information, even though it could identify me, because I exist,” Favarato said.

But under a bill introduced into Queensland Parliament on Wednesday, the clinic will now have to hand over her medical history and details of her genetic ancestry.

Favarato said she had been fighting for the legislation for more than 25 years.

Introducing the bill on Wednesday, Queensland Health Minister Shannon Fentiman acknowledged that establishing a retrospective registry “will have an impact on donors’ right to privacy”.

But she said the right of donor-conceived people to know their genetic ancestry outweighs a donor’s competing right to information privacy, overturning the previous standard.

Favarato’s donor was so overused that she potentially has 600 siblings but only knows 11.

This reflects common practice. Clinics often used donors dozens of times; An estimated 60,000 children are conceived in a clinic. Advocacy group Donor Conceived Australia estimates that about 80% of donor-conceived adults have never been notified.

When Victoria passed landmark legislation requiring retrospective disclosure, many people found out via email.

Anastasia Gunn – mother of donor-conceived children – said parents need to sit their children down today and tell them.

“And I think donors should tell their families, and I think donors should get counseling as well,” she said.

“Unfortunately, many donors donated when they were very young, under 25 years old.

“I feel very sorry for donors who did something in their youth that they may really struggle with now.

‘The truth will come to light one way or another. And I really encourage them to seek support and help and embrace honesty.

Favarato said it’s time to get over the shame of using a fertility clinic.

“I am not ashamed of my status as a donor. Yes, it was hard, but I would rather know the truth than be lied to. And I think that’s something that parents are really afraid of.

“The truth will always come out.”

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The legislation is the first in state law to apply to Queensland’s fertility industry – the largest in the country. There are 24 providers in the state, which are self-regulated.

Advocates say it is decades behind much of the rest of the country; Victoria passed state legislation in the 1990s.

Fertility clinics will be required by law to allow a donor to start only ten families, including his own. It is a violation to use material if they know it will generate more than this limit.

Under a state licensing system, the state can require information from any clinic, conduct inspections of facilities, issue notices of improvements and suspend or completely revoke a clinic’s right to operate.

According to a report from the state’s health ombudsman – tabled alongside the legislation on Wednesday – fertility providers in Queensland have a “significantly higher” rate of record-keeping errors than any other Australian state or New Zealand. About 42% of all checked files showed a “non-conformity”, the report showed.

Prime Minister Steven Miles said he has “spoken to too many families who have been treated poorly by fertility clinics, often at enormous cost”.

“It is unfair that there are people who cannot trace their genetic ancestry,” he said.

“This is simply not good enough, so we are taking action.”

Melanie Sibson, director of Queensland Fertility Group, welcomed the proposed legislation.

“In particular, the focus on protecting the interests of both donor-conceived people and donors, and making assisted reproductive treatments as widely available as possible,” she said.

“We strongly support the establishment of a mandatory donor conception register that will allow donors and donor-conceived people to exchange information.”

The legislation has been sent to a parliamentary committee. It is expected to return to Parliament for a vote this term.