Page URL: https://www.progress.org.uk/ncobbodies15

This policy document is part of a response submitted by the Progress Educational Trust (PET) to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics' Consultation on Human Bodies in Medicine and Research.


Should different forms of incentive, compensation or recognition be used to encourage people to provide different forms of bodily material or to participate in a first-in-human trial?

Yes, there is scope for many different forms of incentive, compensation or recognition be used to encourage people to provide different forms of bodily material or to participate in a first-in-human trial, and this is to the good. We believe that autonomy is paramount, and a logical corollary of this is that there should be scope for commercial transactions involving human bodily material, concerns about dignity and commodification notwithstanding.

In the case of gametes and embryos, any action which promotes the donation of these materials by informed, autonomous adults is not to be discouraged. This is already the case with egg sharing schemes, which enable women to receive fertility treatment sooner and/or at reduced cost if they donate some of their eggs for use in the treatment of other fertility patients or for research,

Explicit remuneration for gamete donation is prohibited in the UK, although 'loss of earnings' compensation to donors is permitted. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is currently reevaluating the sperm, egg and embryo donation policies that were developed as a result of an earlier policy review (see A Report on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's Review of Sperm, Egg and Embryo Donation in the UK, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, 7 October 2005).

Theoretically this reevaluation includes considering whether or not to permit explicit remuneration. But in practice, remuneration is precluded by European law, which specifies that 'member states shall endeavour to ensure voluntary and unpaid donations of tissues and cells', and that 'donors may receive compensation, which is strictly limited to making good the expenses and inconveniences related to the donation' ('Directive 2004/23/EC on Setting Standards of Quality and Safety for the Donation, Procurement, Testing, Processing, Preservation, Storage and Distribution of Human Tissues And Cells', European Parliament and Council, 31 March 2004).