April 23, 2024

Report scrutinises egg donor compensation, self-regulation

Concerns over exploitation

The most
recent issue of a leading bioethics journal, The Hastings Center Report,
contains a study of advertisements for egg donation targeted at young women at
top universities and colleges in the US. The study is the latest instalment in
a long-standing debate over how much egg donors should be paid – if they should
be paid at all.

Dr Aaron
Levine, an assistant professor of public policy at the Georgia Institute for Technology,
scrutinised over 100 ads for egg donation from 63 college newspapers. He found
that many of them offered far above the guidelines offered by American Society
for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). The association’s guidelines suggest a
maximum of US$10,000, and that compensations exceeding this are “not
appropriate”. Also, according to the guidelines, payments over $5,000 “require

Students at
high-achieving universities have long been a target for those seeking egg
donations. Dr Levine found that average SAT scores at the university where the
advertisements were published had a strong correlation with compensation. Some
ads in the Harvard, Princeton and Yale newspapers offered a tantalising $35,000,
and an advertisement at Brown University offered $50,000.

Donation of
eggs is illegal in many countries, and strictly regulated in many others. US
fertility clinics, however, are self-regulating. This has led to concerns of
exploitation. “The concern is that some young women may choose to donate
against their own best interests,” Dr Levine told the New York Times. “They’ll look at the money on
offer and will overlook some of the risks.”

The egg
donation process takes weeks, starting with a series of hormone injections to
stimulate the ovaries to produce 10 ova in a cycle, and the ova are then
removed surgically under a local anaesthetic.

procedure can result in abdominal swelling, hot flashes and mood swings. More
significant, however, is the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which
can result in abdominal pain, bloating, and in some cases blood clots, kidney
failure, and other life-threatening conditions.

self-regulation system has its limitations. Violation of guidelines provided by
associations like the ASRM invites no penalty, meaning that compensation for
egg donation is effectively unrestricted. Dr Levine argues that “A legal cap on
compensation would eliminate the worst of the abuses.” He also suggests that
associations such as the ASRM take steps to increase compliance with their own guidelines.
The Hastings Center Report, Mar 2010New York Times Mar 11

Jared Yee
egg donation