HFEA launches public consultation on sperm and egg donation

The HFEA is today launching a three-month public consultation about sperm and egg donation.

The consultation will focus on three main areas of policy:

  • The level of compensation for donors
  • The number of families a donor can help to create
  • Family donation

Prof Lisa Jardine, Chair of the HFEA said:

‘The donation of sperm and eggs is a generous act and donors have helped many thousands of people achieve their dream of having a child. We know that many people are facing long waiting lists at clinics because of a shortage of donors. We want to ensure that we have the best policies in place so that there are no unnecessary barriers in the way of those wishing to donate whilst protecting those who are born as a result of donation.’


Compensation for donors

Payment for donation is not allowed by law. It does, however, allow compensation for inconvenience, in addition to expenses and loss of earnings. Our current policy is designed to ensure that donors are not out of pocket by donating but that they do not gain financially from it. We currently allow donors to be compensated for expenses and loss of earning, but not for inconvenience.

Feedback from clinics, however, shows that not only do some donors end up out of pocket, but the system is more complex than it needs to be. We are therefore seeking views about whether clinics should offer a lump sum, rather than reimbursing for actual expenses.

Another question in the consultation is whether we should introduce compensation for inconvenience, as some other European countries do. This move may remove a barrier to donation, but we have to be careful that it does not create a financial incentive to donate. Other countries have different schemes in place. For example, in Denmark, sperm donors receive 50–150 Euros (£45-£135) for the examination, use of their time and travel expenses. In Spain, egg donors are compensated 900 Euros (around £765) whereas sperm donors are compensated 45 Euros (around £40) per valid sample they produce. This is a blanket fee for loss of earnings, expenses and inconvenience.

Another key question for the consultation is the issue of egg sharing, where patients donate their eggs in return for a reduction in the cost of their treatment. 


The number of families a donor can help to create

We set a limit on the number of families one donor’s eggs or sperm can be used to help create. The current limit is ten families. This limit minimises the possibility of two children from the same donor having a relationship with each other without knowing they are genetically related. It also addresses the perceived needs of donor conceived people and their parents in maintaining a relatively small number of siblings.

We are seeking views on what the family limit should be, to ensure the right balance is struck between increasing the availability of donated eggs and sperm and protecting the interests of donors and donor-conceived people.


Family donation

Family donation includes many different types of donation relationships, some more common than others. Donation between sisters, cousins and brothers are the most common donation relationship. But we have had reports of mother to daughter, daughter to mother, father to son and son to father.

Receiving sperm or eggs from a family member is an attractive option for some as it maintains a genetic link between the recipient and any child born as a result. It can also avoid long waiting lists at fertility clinics.

Donation of this kind can, however, raise some social and ethical issues such as unusual genetic and social relationships. For example, if a woman donates an egg to her sister she will be the genetic mother and social aunt of any child born as a result.

There are a number of options for the regulation of family donation including a ban on the mixing of sperm and eggs between close genetic relatives (those who would otherwise be banned from having sex with each other) or only ban the mixing of sperm and eggs between genetic relatives.

We could also issue additional best practice guidance to clinics or ask them to have a strategy in place to handle cases of family donation. 


How to participate

People can share their views through a series of questionnaires on the consultation pages on our website. We will also be holding a series of workshops with patients, donors, parents of donor-conceived people, as well as those who are donor-conceived. We will also be consulting with clinics.

We want to hear a wide range of views both from those directly affected and those who are interested in the issues. The consultation runs until 8th April and decisions will be made at the Authority meeting in July.




Notes to editors


  • The consultation pages can be found at  www.hfea.gov.uk/donationreview
  • The HFEA is the independent regulator for IVF treatment and embryo research. Our role is to protect patients and the public interest, to drive improvement in the treatment and research sectors and to provide information to the public and policymakers about treatment and research.
  • The HFEA was set up in August 1991 as part of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.  The HFEA’s principal tasks are to license and monitor clinics that carry out in vitro fertilisation (IVF), artificial insemination (AI) and human embryo research. The HFEA also regulates the storage of gametes (eggs and sperm) and embryos.

For further information please contact the HFEA press office on 020 7291 8226 or email press.office@hfea.gov.uk


Page last updated: 16 January 2011

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HFEA Press Officer
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