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UK may allow payments for gamete donors

31 August 2010

By Rose Palmer

Appeared in BioNews 573

Egg and sperm donors in the UK could receive increased compensation under new proposals aimed at reducing the number of couples travelling abroad for treatment. According to reports the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority’s (HFEA) new plans mean that women donating eggs could receive as much as £800.
 
Currently the HFEA has set a cap of £250 per cycle of egg donation or course of sperm donation. Donors cannot be paid directly, but can claim reasonable expenses for loss of earnings and travel. This payment level has been criticised for being too low and is believed to be the reason for egg and sperm shortages at fertility clinics.
 
An HFEA spokeswoman said: ‘We want to remove obstacles to donation...There  are waiting lists of various lengths for people wanting to get access to treatment with donor eggs or sperm. We want to see if our policies are contributing to an unnecessary delay.’
 
In the UK one in six couples has fertility problems, and it is hoped an increase in compensation will encourage donation, so that these couples do not feel forced to travel for fertility treatment to overseas clinics, which are often unregulated.
 
Susan Seenan of Infertility Network UK said it was right to question the payments: ‘Many patients are travelling abroad for treatment, often because of a severe lack of egg and sperm donors in the UK. Although many patients do receive a high standard of care abroad, this is not ideal.’
 
However, there are concerns that raising the level of payments could commercialise the harvesting of eggs and sperm.
 
Anthony Rutherford, a consultant at the NHS Leeds Centre for Reproductive Medicine and chairman of the British Fertility Society said: ‘Women who donate eggs have to undergo consultations, medical investigations, a course of injections and a small operation. That is a lot to go through and £250 is not enough. However, there is a principal to be struck. If you allow payments to get too high then the principle of donation is lost.’
 
The new proposals could also mean that donated sperm may be used to start as many as 20 families; the current limit has been set at ten. Critics of such a move have argued that it could increase the risk of step siblings unwittingly meeting, getting married and having children.
 
The HFEA will be holding a three-month consultation into its donation policies, beginning in January 2011.

 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
The Daily Telegraph | 22 August 2010
 
The Guardian | 22 August 2010
 
BBC News Online | 23 August 2010
 

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