British split on donor payments

October 25, 2011, 3:54 PM GMT+0

British public opinion is split over whether paying egg or sperm donors up to £750 for their services is appropriate, our poll has found. The results come in light of new Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) guidelines that will see £750 paid in a one-off ‘compensation’ fee to all donors.

  • 45% Brits would oppose the increasing of payments of up to £750 in compensation for those who donate sperm or eggs
  • 39% would support this policy, suggesting that opinion is largely split on the issue

Men are slightly more likely to support the proposal than women, with 45% of men supporting increased payments for donors compared to 33% of women. Younger people would also be more in favour of the scheme than their older counterparts.

  • 46% of 18-24 year olds would support the HFEA’s new policy, compared to 25% of those aged over 60
  • Whereas 57% of those aged over 60 would oppose the policy, compared to just 36% of 18 to 24 year olds

As it stands in the UK, it is illegal to be paid for genetic material and donors do not receive remuneration beyond expenses and ‘compensation for loss of earnings’ incurred as a result of the donation, such as time taken off work for preliminary examination or counselling.

Fertility tourism

It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that there is a national shortage of egg and sperm donors in the UK, alongside a lengthy waiting list for couples seeking donor treatment. Reports suggest that increasing numbers of infertile couples are now travelling abroad to seek IVF treatment in countries where donors are more highly paid, anonymous, and often younger than in the UK.

However, some strongly disagree with the practice of paying donors, arguing that it is impossible to set a price on a child, and to do so devalues the gift the donor is making. Many opponents claim that increased payments could see people donating purely for the financial incentive, so overriding the moral and altruistic principles for wanting to donate in the first place.

But HFEA head Dr Lisa Jardine told the BBC she thought the £750 was ‘fair’, and rejected the notion that being paid more would see people donating for nothing more than the money. ‘I find it very hard to see £750 as an inducement,’ she said. ‘I see it as fair reflection of the effort, the time and the pain.’

However, arguing that women should not be induced into the process in search of a large sum of money, Dr David King, Director of Human Genetics Alert, told the BBC that it is ‘ethically [wrong] to make part of the human body a commodity. The body should not be part of commerce,’ he said.

See the survey details and full results here