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Top US students offered higher egg prices

29 March 2010
Appeared in BioNews 551

US ethical guidelines on compensation for egg donation are frequently being breached and student donors with higher-than-average SAT scores are being offered higher compensation for their eggs, according to a US study.

Professor Aaron Levine of the Georgia Institute of Technology concluded that the voluntary guidelines issued by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) may not work and questioned the ethical protection afforded to egg donors. He looked at over 100 egg donation advertisements placed in 63 student newspapers. Nearly one quarter of advertisements offered compensation exceeding $10,000 and another quarter offered compensation between $5,000 and $10,000.

The US fertility industry relies upon self-regulation, but the ASRM recommends that compensation for eggs over $5,000 requires 'justification' and exceeding $10,000 is 'not appropriate'. The ASRM considers the $5,000 threshold as fair compensation for the donor's efforts and expense, but not enough to amount to exploitation or unfair inducement. Many commentators are ethically opposed to the perceived payment for eggs because it presents a financial inducement for women to assume health risks associated with egg donation and may also lead to the commoditisation of human tissue.

Professor Levine also discovered anecdotal evidence that egg donors who can show higher educational achievements are paid more for their eggs than those who cannot. Average SAT scores were a 'strong predictor' of compensation offered. An increase of 100 SAT points correlated to an increase in egg value by $2,350. This increased to $5,780 for advertisements placed by donor agencies. Fertility clinics, however, offered the same amount of compensation to all donors, regardless of academic attainment.

Professor Levine concluded that: 'donor agencies and couples valued specific donor characteristics and based compensation on these preferences - a violation of the guidelines'.

John Robertson, ASRM Ethics Committee Chair and Professor of Law at the University of Texas, writing in an editorial in the same issue, said that donors are currently given an arbitrary amount of compensation and there is no consensus on what is appropriate or may amount to inappropriate inducement. Professor Robertson said that the issue cannot be left to the fertility experts, but warned that giving the guidelines greater legal status may push the issue behind closed doors.

Professor Levine published his findings in the March 2010 edition of the Hastings Center Report.

Ads soliciting egg donors violate guidelines
LA Times |  24 March 2010
Another Reason to Take SAT Prep: Get More for Your Eggs
Newsweek |  24 March 2010
Egg prices at top universities
Washington Post |  25 March 2010
Fertility Industry Offers Big Money to Recruit Egg Donors With High SAT Scores
Science Daily |  25 March 2010
Smarter women offered more for eggs
UPI |  26 March 2010
Yes, top students reap rich rewards, even as egg donors
The Boston Globe |  26 March 2010
4 April 2011 - by Anthony Bagshawe 
In all the coverage of the recent debate about egg and sperm donation, there has been much said about whether or not egg donors should be paid. Arguments have been put forward on various points and counter claims made. However, in all this what seems to have been missed is that there are in fact two totally separate arguments which have become merged into one, namely payment and compensation...
31 August 2010 - by Rose Palmer 
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19 July 2010 - by Nisha Satkunarajah 
A woman has placed an advert in a local newspaper in a bid to find an egg donor. Diane Smith, 44, who is currently waiting to begin IVF treatment at the CARE Fertility Clinic in Northampton, placed an advert which read, 'We have been trying for a family for a long time but now we need to find an egg donor. Could you be that special person to help our dreams of a family come true?'...
26 April 2010 - by Ben Jones and Dr Vivienne Raper 
Should egg and sperm donors be rewarded with souvenir mugs and T-shirts? An independent think tank has launched a consultation to consider this and other radical ideas for increasing donations...
12 April 2010 - by National Gamete Donation Trust 
The Trustees of the National Gamete Donation Trust were interested to read Dr John Parsons' article on introducing payment for altruistic egg donors. In principle we support egg sharing, but are concerned about the discrepancy between what is effectively payment in kind, and the reimbursement given to altruistic donors....
22 March 2010 - by MacKenna Roberts 
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17 November 2009 - by Professor Margaret Somerville 
A recent article by journalist, Allison Cross, described how a shortage of Canadian donor sperm could be prompting women and their partners to turn to the Internet to find free donors: 'Many of these people want 'do-it-yourself' donor insemination, without intervention by doctors'...
27 July 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens 
A public debate is urgently needed to decide whether people should be paid for donating eggs and sperm to infertile couples, according to Lisa Jardine, Chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). In an exclusive interview with the Times, Professor Jardine said that the lack of egg and sperm donors in this country was driving couples abroad for fertility treatment in often unregulated clinics, and that the HFEA could potentially consider a reversal of the ban on paymen...
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