Monetizing egg donation: Should America impose a price ceiling?

Should America regulate egg donors?

WASHINGTON, November 8, 2012 – July, 1978 marked the birth of what would become a revolutionary achievement in the world of assisted pregnancy: Louise Joy Brown was the first child to be born through assisted reproductive technologies. 

That revolutionary development paved the way for thousands upon thousands more just like her.  In the latest statistics put out by the American Society of Reproductive Services (ASRS), 146,693 egg donors complete the donation cycle in 2010, resulting in 58,727 births.

Since Louise Brown’s birth some 34 years ago, and the success of assisted pregnancies, fertility clinics have solicited young women to donate eggs.  These donors are compensated for both their eggs (in scientific terms oocyte) and their time. 

Louise Brown’s birth occurred in Great Britain, which has severely tightened the noose on reproductive related donations since that time. While there is no all-encompassing law in European countries that prohibits oocyte donation, many countries in the EU have banned the practice of financial compensation for donations. 

The United States, however, operates under a different model. As it stands now, the United States has yet to impose any ruling on the payment for women who donate eggs. Instead of legislation, clinics follow a set of recommendations created by the ASRS. 

The guidelines are vague, suggesting payment of between $2,500 and $5,000 is appropriate for first time donations. In special circumstances, the guidelines allow payments of up to $10,000.The ASRS states that any amount over $10,000 should be met with concern and an inquiry into the legitimacy of the clinic.

These statements are in fact still recommendations, not law, and carry no penalty for those who choose to ignore them. Many clinics around the United States largely ignore these parameters and it is not uncommon to see recipients pay egg donors as much as $40,000 for a donation. 

Without strict regulation, would-be parents compensate donors for characteristics such as aptitude, intelligence and appearance.  Potential parents get the chance to select the qualities they would like in their potential egg donor. The clinic then operates as an intermediary between the two and does their best to match both up according to the intended parent’s wishes.

This process of selecting a donor based on characteristics divides society already polarized on the issue.  Due to the tried and true method of supply and demand you start to see a push towards donors who have more desirable qualities or donors of a specific ethnic background.  As it stands right now, Asian women are in particular demand, often earning three or four times the amount of their fellow peers.  Should this be allowed? 

Is this in fact a form of racial discrimination, or even aptitude discrimination?

Canada opposes this type of egg selection. The Canadian court in 2011 banned anonymous sperm and egg donation, eliminating any potential financial gain through the donation process. 

However, making something illegal does not necessarily eradicate the practice.  In Europe and Canada, donors travel abroad to less restrictive countries to make their donationsIn some European nations, this only means a quick bus ride across boarders or in Canada, a quick drive or flight into the United States. 

Many fertility clinics will even cover the costs of any travel the donor incurs in getting to and from the location of the extraction.

With so much emphasis for stricter regulation, it’s easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal of the entire process, supplying an infertile couple with the gift of life.  Egg donors are given the fortunate chance to give hope where there was once none.  It is impossible to say how the eradication of compensation would impact the rate of births to couples who are unable to conceive through their own means.  It’s fair to say that the numbers would fall, but by just how much remains a mystery.

What about you?  Where do you stand on the matter?  Should egg donations continued to be compensated, perhaps with a stricter payout regulation? Or should the whole process be streamlined into altruistic donations only?  I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Cynthia Dorsch loves writing about health and wellness. In her free time she can often be found researching and catching up on trending techniques and new innovations in the medical field. She currently writes and blogs for My Egg Bank, a company specializing in assisted reproductive technologies.

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Cynthia Dorsch

Cynthia Dorsch loves writing about health and wellness. In her free time she can often be found researching and catching up on trending techniques and new innovations in the medical field. She currently writes and blogs for My Egg Bank, a company specializing in egg donation.

Contact Cynthia Dorsch


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