Fertility regulator seeks views on donation compensation

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 26 August 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c4688
  1. Adrian O’Dowd
  1. 1Margate

    People who donate eggs or sperm for other people to be able to conceive could receive higher financial compensation after a review by the UK’s fertility regulator.

    The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has launched a review to seek opinions on whether the money paid to egg and sperm donors should be increased to deal with current shortages.

    The review will also look at the number of families that donors can donate to; donation between family members; the conditions that donors can place on the use of their gametes or embryos; and the upper age limit for sperm donation.

    In the UK, egg and sperm donors are not paid but can claim a maximum of £250 (€305; $385) as compensation for loss of earnings and also claim travelling expenses.

    The UK has a shortage despite increasing numbers of donors because demand is growing more steeply than availability.

    In 2004, there were 1676 patients treated with donors’ eggs and this fell to 1306 patients by 2008. Infertility is estimated to affect around one in six or one in seven UK couples—about 3.5 million people—at some point.

    To tackle the shortage of sperm and eggs donated for in vitro fertilisation treatment, the HFEA is gathering views before it carries out a full consultation into its donation policies beginning next January.

    A spokesman for the authority told the BMJ: “We are not putting a possible [new] figure on the compensation given to donors. We have not come to a figure but an increase is a possibility.”

    Authority chair Lisa Jardine was quoted in the Sunday Times (22 August) as saying the authority was considering adopting the Spanish system, which would see the payment cap rise to £800.

    Professor Jardine was quoted as saying: “We are suggesting moving closer to the Spanish system.”

    Tony Rutherford, consultant gynaecologist at the Leeds Centre for Reproductive Medicine and chair of the British Fertility Society, the representative body for professionals practising in reproductive medicine, told the BMJ it was time to deal with the issue of compensation.

    “There is no way that compensation of £250 is commensurate with the amount of hardship a woman goes through in performing an egg donation cycle,” he said.

    “My view is that whilst we don’t want to lose the concept of altruistic giving, having compensation which is more appropriate to the processes that somebody is having to go through is only right. It’s not right that at the moment, people who are donating sperm and eggs are out of pocket.

    “We ourselves in Leeds have paid patients to donate eggs for research and the ethics committee felt that a payment of £1500 was fair compensation for them going through the process without providing too much of a monetary incentive to take part.”

    Mr Rutherford said another important issue was to increase awareness.

    “Having information and being aware of the plight of infertile couples and what people would need to go through to egg donation is important,” he added. “We could get far more egg donors by making people more aware of that.”


    Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c4688