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Payment Offers to Egg Donors Prompt Scrutiny

by David Tuller,  New York Times,  May 10, 2010
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Demand for human ova has been growing in recent years, fueled by infertility treatments and increased investment in stem cell research. Young women at top colleges and universities, long a prized source of eggs, are now being recruited not just through advertising in student newspapers but on Web sites like Facebook and Craigslist, even on highway billboards.

But a study in the most recent issue of The Hastings Center Report, a leading bioethics journal, found that the compensation being touted in ads aimed at young women often exceeded industry guidelines. The study is the latest development in a long-running debate over how much — or even whether — egg donors should be paid.

In the study, Dr. Aaron Levine, an assistant professor of public policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology, examined more than 100 egg donation ads from 63 college newspapers. He found that a quarter of them offered compensation exceeding the $10,000 maximum cited in voluntary guidelines issued by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a professional association.

The guidelines state that payments of $5,000 or more above and beyond medical and related expenses “require justification” and that payments above $10,000 “are not appropriate.” Ads in newspapers at Harvard, Princeton and Yale promised $35,000 for donors, Dr. Levine found, while an ad placed on behalf of an anonymous couple in The Brown Daily Herald offered $50,000 for “an extraordinary egg donor.”


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