Fertility Journal

Why should egg donors be paid?

At the present time in the UK sperm and egg donors are paid up to a maximum of £250 for each donation. The screening for both men and women is identical before they are accepted as donors. Yet there is a vast difference in what is involved between sperm and egg donation. The man only has to walk into the assisted conception unit, produce his sperm sample and leave. In contrast, the woman has to go through a full IVF cycle with all of the risks of the procedure.

In the UK egg donors fall into two main groups:

  • Firstly there is the altruistic donor who does not seek to gain financial reward but wishes to donate her eggs anonymously for the benefit of unknown recipients. Included in this group are those who are donating eggs to another family member (eg sister to sister) or to a close friend. It could be argued that these remarkable women are receiving huge personal satisfaction from the knowledge that they are giving another woman an opportunity to achieve a pregnancy that she might otherwise never receive.
  • The second group are those women on an egg sharing scheme who are having IVF in their own right but are also donating half of their retrieved eggs to another woman. While the satisfaction of helping another woman is still there, they are usually receiving their own treatment at very reduced cost or even free of charge.

The fear of increasing the payment to egg donors is that it might tempt impoverished women to donate purely for financial gain. In the USA there are women who make a career out of egg donation. But if the compensation for becoming an egg donor is fixed at a reasonable level (£1,000 – £1,500), the risk of this will be significantly reduced. In contrast a free market for egg donors would run the risk of making egg donation treatment prohibitively expensive for all but the wealthiest of patients.

There are undoubtedly ethical issues over “selling” eggs, but the problem of preventing further infertility tourism to parts of the world where egg donors are readily available needs to be addressed.

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