Fertility clinics in Australia have been warned not to offer flat fees to egg and sperm donors, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has written to clinics across Australia reminding them that giving patients set payments for donations could constitute 'valuable consideration' or an inducement, which is illegal under federal law. It is an offence to pay egg or sperm donors anything beyond out-of-pocket expenses, punishable by up to 15 years' imprisonment.
The NHMRC said that it was aware of 'a number' of clinics that were offering flat fees to donors. Australia's largest clinics – IVF Australia, Genea and Monash IVF – all told the Sydney Morning Herald that they did not provide set payments, but online research conducted by the newspaper showed that some smaller clinics were offering flat fees of between A$100 and A$200 to donors.
'Payment of a predetermined amount to all donors, without any consideration of individual circumstances, may constitute valuable consideration if the amount exceeds the reasonable expenses incurred by the individual during the donation process,' NHMRC executive director Samantha Robertson said in the letter.
However, Professor Peter Illingworth, medical director of IVF Australia, said the interpretation of 'valuable consideration' was so vague that it could be quite legal for clinics to make set payments – although he suggested itemising expenses when reimbursing donors.