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Legal age limits in accessing donor information: experiences of donor-conceived people, parents, sperm donors and counsellors.

RESEARCH QUESTION: What are the lived experiences of donor-conceived people, parents, sperm donors and counsellors related to legal age limits on accessing donor information in the Netherlands?

DESIGN: A phenomenological study was carried out that included 20 donor-conceived individuals, 15 parents, 6 sperm donors and 5 counsellors. Data were collected through online qualitative in-depth interviews and focus groups. The data were analysed using Dahlberg's Reflective Lifeworld Approach.

RESULTS: The results show how: (i) age limits create challenges related to dependency, autonomy and loyalty to parents; (ii) donor information can be important for identity development, which looks different at different ages; (iii) inaccessible information can lead to unfair loss and may be perceived as negative; (iv) relational stability provides a good foundation for dealing with the (in)accessibility of donor information; (v) procedural barriers and age limits increase the inaccessibility of donor information; and (vi) comprehensive counselling is desired for donor-conceived individuals, parents and donors.

CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that legal age limits on accessing donor information can lead to several negative consequences. The age limits focus on one individual, which is not appropriate for questions about ancestry that always pertain to a relational network. Counselling should be tailored to the child's needs, and the child's family should be involved. Furthermore, the donor should receive independent counselling.

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