Two experts have indicated their support for paying sperm and egg donors more money. Two panelists in a debate last Wednesday, organised by the Progress Educational Trust in partnership with the Royal Society of Medicine, on the ethics of egg donation and payment said in the press they want to raise the maximum payment above today's £250 per cycle.
Speaking to the Guardian, Tony Rutherford, chairman of the British Fertility Society, said about egg donation: '£1,500 seems to be reasonable compensation for the physical rigours that these women need to undergo. They need to have injections of drugs, invasive internal scans and then a small operative procedure to collect the eggs. They may also possibly need to have time off work to attend appointments spread over three to four weeks'.
Mr Rutherford said the fees paid should match the financial benefit gained by those taking part in egg-sharing schemes, where a woman donates some of her eggs in return for free or cheaper fertility treatment. He added: 'Compensation should not be so high that it acts as a financial inducement'.
The debate also extended to payment to sperm donors - also subject to the £250 cap. Laura Witjens, chairwoman of the National Gamete Donation Trust, wrote in a BBC news health column: 'Sperm donors deserve at least the same payment if not more than egg donors do'. She argued the process they go through is difficult, lengthy and requires a serious commitment.
The debate was held as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) prepares to launch a public consultation on the donation of eggs, sperm and embryos in January 2011, which will look at issues including payment.
A shortage of egg donors in the UK is leading to an increase in couples travelling abroad for treatment. A spokesman for the HFEA said: 'We know there is a shortage of donor eggs and sperm. This means that people are having to wait longer for their treatment. In some instances people are travelling abroad where there may not be such a shortage'.
Sarah Norcross, director of the Progress Educational Trust, said the level of payment for both men and women should increase, describing the current limit as 'woefully inadequate'.