27.1.08

MAKING GENEALOGY MORE DIFFICULT. Twins separated at birth marry each other.

The harrowing story of twins who were separated at birth and married each other without realising they were brother and sister was revealed today.

When the unnamed couple realised the shocking truth about their relationship, they had their marriage annulled at a secret High Court hearing. A judge ruled the union was legally invalid.

Not an easy time for the couple, but not unexpected.

The couple's plight was revealed by the former Liberal Democrat MP Lord Alton, who is fighting for children to have greater rights to know the identity of their biological parents.

The peer, who raised the twins' story during a House of Lords debate on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, said: "I learned of this heartbreaking story from the High Court judge who dealt with the case.

"We were having a casual conversation about the potential problems for donor-conceived children accidentally marrying each other and he said this could also happen in naturally conceived children."

Policymakers have several problems to grapple with.

Lord Alton and his supporters want the genetic history of a child recorded on its birth certificate.

The matter will be debated next week at the next reading of the controversial bill.

He said: "One of its provisions is to deny the child's right to know about its biological identity.

"This means the state is colluding in a deception. The Government has drawn up legislation that will deny you this knowledge until you are 18. But you could be married by then, or have fallen in love with someone.

"This will lead to these heartbreaking situations.

"If you start trying to conceal someone's identity, sooner or later the truth will out.

"And if you don't know you are biologically related to someone, you may become attracted to them and tragedies like this may occur."

In preventing consanguinity, however, the policy is making more likely that people will learn unpleasant truths about their natural parents. To make the disclosure age less than 18 is to expose younger people to some of those unpleasant truths easier.

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