Paid egg sharing to be regulated, not banned

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) today announced its decision not to ban the system of paid egg sharing. Specific guidelines will be prepared for the next edition of the Code of Practice. In addition the HFEA announced that it will continue to allow payments of up to £15 for egg and sperm donors for the foreseeable future.

Ruth Deech, Chairman of the HFEA, today said on egg sharing:

"We have debated the complex issue of egg sharing at length. Whilst no-one can have a problem with a woman who is undergoing IVF freely and voluntarily choosing to share surplus eggs with someone else, we recognise the concerns arising when subsidised IVF treatment is offered for such eggs.

The overwhelming view of the HFEA was that it would not be right to ban paid egg sharing, which can be enormously beneficial to both sharer and receiver. We were influenced by the argument that egg sharers are not motivated by money, but by the desire for a baby.

It is clear, however, that such egg sharing needs to be closely controlled and regulated, and we will be working on producing specific guidelines on this for our Code of Practice. This will look at, amongst other things, consent, the information that is given to potential sharers, and the choices they are presented with when a limited numbers of eggs have been collected".

On payments for egg and sperm donors, Mrs Deech said:

"The HFEA believes that the donation of sperm or eggs to create new life should be a gift, freely and voluntarily given. As we have said before, we would like to see a culture of altruism where donors come forward voluntarily, and we will continue to look at ways in which that might be achieved. Our recent consultation document raised the possibility of a National Donor Service. We also look forward to seeing the progress of the National Gamete Donation Trust in its efforts to raise awareness of the need for donors."

"Nevertheless, it has become clear that the removal of payments in the present climate would seriously jeopardise the supply of sperm donors. We have a responsibility to patients as well as the wider community. We know also that sperm donors are advertised on the internet, and there is an emerging international trade in gametes (sperm or eggs). We therefore feel it is important that the supply of safe, screened sperm in the UK remains adequate, and do not feel that £15 payment is so wrong that we are prepared to threaten the entire service.

"We are aware that social attitudes and prevailing cultures may change over time, and we will continue to monitor developments."


Notes to editors

  • The 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act allows the HFEA discretion over how   much egg and sperm donors may be paid. When the HFEA assumed its powers in   August 1991 it issued directions allowing clinics to pay up to £15 per donation plus   reasonable expenses, reflecting what was then current practice.
  • In July 1996 the HFEA announced that it was opposed to donors being paid anything   more than expenses. In February 1998 a consultation document on the implementation   of this policy was launched, which included questions about the future of egg sharing.
  • Research commissioned by the HFEA and responses to the consultation document indicated that the majority of sperm donors indicated that they would only donate if paid.  The HFEA research also found that one third of male non-donors reported that they might be interested in donating semen, indicating that attention should be given to increasing public awareness of donor insemination by more effective advertising and  promotion.
  • The number of DI treatment cycles (using donated sperm) dropped by over a third between 1992 and 1995/6 (from 26,063 to 16,659 per annum). This was largely due to an increase in ICSI treatments (where an individual sperm is injected directly into an egg, thus overcoming much male subfertility). There were around 250 babies born from donated eggs in the most recent year for which figures are available (1.4.95-31.3.96), and this figure has risen over time (there 116 babies born from donated eggs as a result of treatment in 1992). Between 350 and 400 new sperm donors come forward every year, and around 900 egg donors.
  • In its consultation document the HFEA proposed that serious consideration be given to the idea of establishing a national donor service (or several regional donor services) which would raise awareness of gamete donation and recruit donors. Such a service could provide a co-ordinated approach to the development of recruitment methods and would help to maximise the efficient supply of donors. It would also be a good source of information about donor recruitment.

For furthur information please contact the HFEA press office.

Page last updated: 13 March 2009

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