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Lawsuit Alleges Price Fixing on Egg Donation
Lindsay Kamakahi, an egg donor, has filed a class action lawsuit against the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), and Pacific Fertility Center, alleging that the three groups conspired to fix prices for human egg donors and “reap anti-competitive profits for themselves.” Lindsay Kamakahi v. American Society For Reproductive Medicine, Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology and Pacific Fertility Center, Civil Action Case No. 11-Cv-1781 was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
“According to the Class Action Complaint, the plaintiff egg donor is alleging that certain parties (professional organizations, medical service providers and other businesses that pay for or purchase donor services) did effectively suppress donor compensation,” says Amy Demma, an attorney who specializes in reproductive law. “The premise of the claim appears to be related to ethical guidelines issued by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine as they reference appropriate egg donor compensation.”
The plaintiff class is all women who, at any time during the time period starting four years prior to the filing date of the complaint to the present, sold their eggs for assisted fertility and reproductive procedures. The defendants in the case are all SART-member fertility clinics and all egg donor agencies that agreed to comply with SART/ASRM rules on donor egg compensation — and who paid for egg donor services — at any time during that four-year time period. “The claim is based on legal principals related to anti-competitive collusion within a particular market in an effort to control pricing,” Demma explains. It alleges that this price fixing is illegal under Section 1 of the Sherman Act.
In the complaint, Kamakahi says that even though egg donation is “far more painful and risky” than sperm donation, women are paid the same hourly rate as sperm donor, and “a price paid for donor services that does not account for those differences must be artificially low.”
“In my opinion, the complaint is distorting the intention behind the ASRM ethics based guidelines and the commitment to best and ethical practices of those choosing to consider these guidelines in establishing business practices,” Demma said.
ASRM is a multidisciplinary organization dedicated to the advancement of the art, science and practice of reproductive medicine. SART is an affiliate of ASRM that represents more than 85 percent of the fertility clinics in the United States, and sets guidelines and standards for professionals in the field of reproductive endocrinology.
“This lawsuit is frivolous, and we fully expect the court will treat it as such,” said Sean Tipton, ASRM’s Director of Public Affairs.
Demma says she hopes and fully expects that there will be a quick and complete dismissal of all claims against the defendants. “As always, however, I do look forward to continued dialogue across the various disciplines who work with egg donors — bioethicists, mental health providers, physicians, nurses, attorneys, and other service providers — to assess if current practices are in the best interest of all parties — the patient, the donor, and the children/families resulting from the egg donation. In my experience, consideration of business practices in egg donation has historically been with a regard and a commitment to ethical standards and to what is in the best interest of the donor and those prospective parents she has agreed to assist in their family building.”