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Egg donation: Why we need a culture of altruism

12 April 2010
Appeared in BioNews 553
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.

There is a difference between being a patient and being a consumer - between giving a gift and providing a service. Once you create a market for gametes, it is impossible to go back to an altruistic system. In 1998 the average donor fee for clinics on the US East coast was $2500. Due to clinic competition for donors, within four years that had increased to $7500, with 'exceptional' donors commanding many times this amount. Now it is considerably more. Introducing payment means women who might otherwise donate altruistically no longer do - and the full cost is passed on to recipients.

To those who can't afford it, is it better that eggs are out of reach because they are too expensive or because there are few donors? In a culture of altruism, at least poorer recipients still have a chance of finding a donor.

Altruistic donors may not be under pressure for treatment, but they may have different pressures. We are in the middle of a recession; single person's Job Seeker's Allowance for six months is barely £1700. It is disingenuous to suggest that women with no fertility problems would not have a financial motive to donate: the American experience clearly shows this is not true.

It's an old marketing adage that what costs money has value; what's given for free is easily taken for granted. How ironic then that we are discussing the option of paying donors when some clinics can't even afford to pay travel expenses.

The Trust supports reimbursement of full, receipted expenses and uncapped reimbursement for loss of earnings. We also promote clinic best practice in treatment of donors - prompt responses, full information, helpful staff and a friendly welcome. Improved customer care costs next to nothing, and failures in this regard show a lack of consideration and respect for donors. In this area, we also need a change of culture.

We are lucky enough to have had several high-profile donor recruitment campaigns over the last four years. This is the main reason we're the only country that has increased donor recruitment without paying donors. Yes, let's open the debate about paying altruistic donors, but let's not forget there are plenty of other things we can improve on that also make a difference.

17 October 2011 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A report on the donation of human bodily material for medicine and research has made several recommendations including removing the current cap on egg and sperm donor expenses in the UK...
30 September 2011 - by Dr Kamal Ahuja 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has already made two decisions following its public consultation and review of gamete donation policies in the UK: first, intra-familial gamete donation can continue as before (subject to certain provisions); and second, the number of families which a single donor might help create remains limited to ten. The bigger question on compensation and benefit in kind to donors will not be answered until later this year...
4 April 2011 - by Professor Brian Lieberman 
Human eggs are in short supply. Whilst the first reaction to the concept of payment for eggs may evoke the 'yuk' response, is this response rational? However, significant differences of opinion, ethical conduct and attitudes prevail. Yet, it can be argued that payment in one form or another is justified not only to try to meet this need, but also to reduce exploitation of the women who require donated eggs and those who have specifically been recruited into the egg trading market from...
17 January 2011 - by Walter Merricks 
We regard it as morally wrong to buy or sell babies. We do not allow a trade in human body parts - kidneys, organs or blood. Commercial arrangements to pay fees to surrogate mothers are banned. The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) says there is a 'shortage' of donated gametes and embryos - in the sense that there are fewer gametes and embryos that have been donated than the number of people who would like to receive them. There are also 'shortages' of babies available...
25 October 2010 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Should we pay women to become egg donors to tackle the 'mismatch' between supply and demand? This question was debated last week in an event organised by the Progress Educational Trust in partnership with the Royal Society of Medicine, supported by the National Gamete Donation Trust and the British Fertility Society (BFS)...
12 April 2010 - by London Bridge Fertility, Gynaecology and Genetics Centre 
The regulations governing the reimbursement of donors and the withdrawal of donor anonymity in the UK have combined to ensure that there are insufficient egg donors to meet requirements...
6 April 2010 - by Dr John Parsons 
The time has come to look again at offering proportionate payments to women without a fertility problem who donate eggs. Licensed clinics should stop using eggs from egg sharing arrangements and be banned from supporting links with overseas clinics that use anonymous donors...
29 March 2010 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
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...
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