HFEA Statement on donating eggs for research

Angela McNab, Chief Executive of the HFEA, said:

"Today (21 February 2007) the Authority agreed to allow women to be able to donate their eggs to research projects, provided that there are strong safeguards in place to ensure the women are properly informed of the risks of the procedure and are properly protected from coercion.

"In the UK we already have strong safeguards for egg donation for treatment which take into account its risks and benefits, the legal status of donors and welfare of any children born as a result of donation.

"Having considered all the information on donating eggs for research, including the risks to women and the outcomes of the public consultation, the Authority has decided that women will be allowed to donate their eggs to research, both as an altruistic donor or in conjunction with their own IVF treatment. Given that the medical risks for donating for research are no higher than for treatment, we have concluded that it is not for us to remove a woman's choice of how her donated eggs should be used.

"In allowing this, the Authority insisted that donation for research would be allowed under the same rules as donation for treatment but with clear safeguards in the process.

"These safeguards include having clear separation between the researchers and people carrying out the woman's treatment, detailed information about the realistic outcomes of the research and the impact the donation would have and requiring the person getting the woman's consent being independent from the research team.

"These safeguards should prevent women from being coerced or misled into donating their eggs or from being misinformed about the extent to which their donation might impact on research."

"Women will not be paid for donating their eggs. Researchers will have to follow the same system as donation for treatment; donors can only claim back the expenses that they have actually incurred. There has never been any question of women receiving payment for donating their eggs for research at any stage of our deliberations.

"The Authority's policy will mean women who donate eggs for research will get strong protection in a very closely regulated sector.

"People donating for research will not be able to do so without considering the matter seriously. Researchers will be obliged to wait after a woman has agreed to donate to allow her time to reconsider her decision. This will be a carefully paced process where women will receive proper counselling about the risks and implications of their decisions to donate.

"We don't expect to see a rush of applications as this is a very specialist area of research, carried out by a limited number of centres. However, it has raised important ethical issues, which is why we needed to do a full and broad consultation in this area."


Notes to editors

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), donor insemination (DI) 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.

Page last updated: 11 March 2009

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