Fertility regulator tells clinics to treat egg and sperm donors better to boost numbers

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 05 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2594
  1. Ingrid Torjesen
  1. 1London

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has launched a national strategy to boost the number of egg and sperm donors by raising awareness about donating and improving the way that donors are treated by clinics.

The authority is establishing an expert group to look at ways of raising awareness of donation, to debate contentious issues and to ameliorate areas of concern, and to promote good practice among clinics to ensure that potential donors feel supported and not discouraged.

The strategy was announced as new rules governing how much egg donors can be paid in compensation came into force. From 1 April, the amount of money women who donate eggs for infertility treatment in the United Kingdom can be paid per cycle, to compensate for loss of earnings, expenses, and the procedures they undergo, trebled to £750 (€858; $1180) (BMJ 2011;343:d6865, doi:10.1136/bmj.d6865). The extra money is also an attempt to remedy a shortage of egg donors by ensuring that donors are not financially disadvantaged by donating.

Although the numbers of egg and sperm donors have recovered from a dip in 2005, when the law was changed to remove donor anonymity and give children conceived through donated gametes the right to find out the donor’s identity when they reach 18, Lisa Jardine, chair of the authority, said that there still were not enough donations to meet UK demand. As a result there were long waiting lists, forcing many women to seek treatment abroad.

The expert group will attempt to find ways of encouraging more altruistic egg donors to come forward and persuading more women undergoing fertility treatment to make any eggs that they do not need themselves available for donation.

Even if the donating woman does not go on to have a viable pregnancy herself, Jardine said: “The anecodotal evidence we have is that it is comforting for the woman who is unsuccessful, the woman who hasn’t managed to have a child but finds that her eggs have been donated to someone who has.”

The group will also encourage the spread of best practice between clinics to ensure that donors feel valued and engaged, and have access to the information and support that they need.

Jardine said there was some evidence that donors did not feel particularly welcomed at some clinics. “Donors are a sort of side issue in the clinic but they have to be dealt with through the clinic,” she said. “We have heard that their phone calls aren’t returned or they don’t even get a cup of tea, or a gay donor was given girlie magazines in the donation room.”

The authority is seeking to recruit 12 to14 people to the expert group, with expertise in areas of donor recruitment, public relations, awareness raising, donor customer care, patient interests, or the wellbeing of future donor conceived people. The deadline for applications is 1 May.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2594


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