What price new life? HFEA statement regarding donor compensation The press has been trumpeting loudly that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is about to reverse its longstanding policy on not paying egg and sperm donors, in order to try to reduce the numbers of childless couples seeking fertility treatment abroad in clinics which the HFEA has no power to regulate, or sourcing unscreened donor zygotes over the internet.  

At present, donors of eggs and sperm cannot legally be paid, as such, but receive £250 in lieu of loss of earnings, plus expenses. Donor eggs are in short supply in the UK, not least because developing multiple eggs and then extracting them is a procedure carrying a significant risk to the health of the donor. The number of sperm donations has diminished since the ending of donor anonymity in 2005.  

Press rumours of payments from £800 through to thousands of pounds, with a premium paid for good looking or high IQ donors, as in the United States, has driven the HFEA to issue a formal press release:

”The Authority welcomes the current interest in the issue of how to tackle the shortage of sperm and eggs donated for IVF treatment in the UK. It is important that policy in this area – that is of so much concern to so many – is informed by as wide a range of views as possible.  

It is also important to be clear about the facts. The facts are – the Authority has not made any decisions about which options to undertake consultation on.  

The Authority has decided to hold a full, public consultation into its donation policies and is currently researching the issues before deciding what to consult on.  

The public consultation will begin in January 2011 and will run for three months. The results of the consultation will be available in May 2011.”  

Meanwhile, the World Congress on Fertility, held recently in Munich, was due to announce that a code of practice on cross-border fertility care will be published by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology and the International Federation of Fertility Societies later this year, in an attempt to harmonise standards to increase patient safety.