Date Published: 17 January 2011

(UK) HFEA launches public consultation on sperm and egg donation

The (UK) Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has just launched a three-month public consultation about sperm and egg donation.

The consultation will focus on three main areas of policy:

  • The level of compensation for donors
  • The number of families a donor can help to create
  • Family donation

Prof Lisa Jardine, Chair of the HFEA said:

" The donation of sperm and eggs is a generous act and donors have helped many thousands of people achieve their dream of having a child. We know that many people are facing long waiting lists at clinics because of a shortage of donors. We want to ensure that we have the best policies in place so that there are no unnecessary barriers in the way of those wishing to donate whilst protecting those who are born as a result of donation."

Compensation for donors

Payment for donation is not allowed by law. It does, however, allow compensation for inconvenience, in addition to expenses and loss of earnings. The current policy of the HFEA is designed to ensure that donors are not out of pocket by donating but that they do not gain financially from it. The UK HFEA currently allows donors to be compensated for expenses and loss of earning, but not for inconvenience.

Feedback from clinics, however, shows that not only do some donors end up out of pocket, but the system is more complex than it needs to be. The HFEA is therefore seeking views about whether clinics should offer a lump sum, rather than reimbursing for actual expenses.

Another question in the consultation is whether the UK should introduce compensation for inconvenience, as some other European countries do. Such a change may remove a barrier to donation, but the HFEA is concerned that it does not create a financial incentive to donate. Other countries have different schemes in place. For example, in Denmark, sperm donors receive 50?150 Euros (£45-£135) for the examination, use of their time and travel expenses. In Spain, egg donors are compensated 900 Euros (around £765) whereas sperm donors are compensated 45 Euros (around £40) per valid sample they produce. This is a blanket fee for loss of earnings, expenses and inconvenience.

Another key question for the consultation is issue of egg sharing, where patients donate their eggs in return for a reduction in the cost of their treatment.

The number of families a donor can help to create

The UK HFEA has set a limit on the number of families one donor's eggs or sperm can be used to help create. The current limit is ten families. This limit is intended to reduce the possibility of two children from the same donor having a relationship with each other without knowing they are genetically related. It also addresses the perceived needs of donor conceived people and their parents in maintaining a relatively small number of siblings.

The UK HFEA is seeking the views from the general public about what the family limit should be, in order to ensure that an appropriate balance is made between increasing the availability of donated eggs and sperm and protecting the interests of donors and donor-conceived people.

Family donation

Family donation includes many different types of donation relationships, some more common than others. Donation between sisters, cousins and brothers are the most common donation relationship. But we have had reports of mother to daughter, daughter to mother, father to son and son to father.

Receiving sperm or eggs from a family member is an attractive option for some as it maintains a genetic link between the recipient and any child born as a result. It can also avoid long waiting lists at fertility clinics.
Donation of this kind can, however, raise some social and ethical issues such as unusual genetic and social relationships. For example, if a woman donates an egg to her sister she will be the genetic mother and social aunt of any child born as a result.

There are a number of options for regulation of family donation including a ban on the mixing of sperm and eggs between close genetic relatives (those who would otherwise be banned from having sex with each other) or only ban the mixing of sperm and eggs between genetic relatives.

The UK HFEA could also issue additional best practice guidance to clinics or ask them to have a strategy in place to handle cases of family donation.

To take part in the public consultation:

The consultation pages can be found at http://www.hfea.gov.uk/donationreview

 

Source: Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HEFA), UK.

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