How much is a donor egg worth?

It may end up being decided by the courts.

In an article in the Wall Street Journal the question is at the heart of a federal lawsuit brought by two women who provided eggs to couples struggling with infertility. The women claim the price guidelines adopted by fertility clinics nationwide have artificially suppressed the amount they can get for their eggs, in violation of federal antitrust laws. The fertility specialty organizations behind the price guidance—which discourages payments above $10,000 per egg-donation cycle—say caps are needed to prevent coercion and exploitation in the egg-donation process.

The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California, could go to trial next year. In February, Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero allowed the suit, first filed in 2011, to move forward on behalf of women who have donated eggs in recent years. Later this summer, Judge Spero will consider whether to broaden the case to include women who plan to donate eggs in the future and want to eliminate the caps entirely. If successful, it could upend the industry of egg donation, which has increasingly become an important option for women who have trouble conceiving because of advanced age or other problems.

Like most IVF centers, Reproductive Partners is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine which created the ethical guidelines limiting payments to donors in order to prevent creating an industry in human tissue trafficking. The payment are supposedly not the for eggs themselves as it is not based on the number of eggs retrieved. But rather it is compensation for the time, inconvenience, pain and potential risk the donors may experience.

Donor eggs are already expensive. But if this lawsuit is successful the costs will likely go far beyond reach for almost every woman needing the eggs. RPMG has tried to reduce the costs by being the exclusive program using Donor Egg Bank USA’s frozen eggs in Southern California which result in much lower cycle costs than fresh eggs as well as an easier process.

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