Egg donors challenge ASRM guidelines for payment

In a New York Times article, in a federal lawsuit, a group of women are challenging industry guidelines that say it is “inappropriate” to pay a woman more than $10,000 for her eggs. The women say the $10,000 limit amounts to illegal price-fixing, and point out that there is no price restriction on the sale of human sperm. A federal judge has certified the claim as a class action, which will most likely go to trial next year.

ASRM developed the guidelines because it is not ethical to “sell” eggs. The guidelines were developed to come up with a fair range of payment to donors for their time, trouble, risk and pain. They face loss of time from work or other activities, needing to have their bodies invaded, taking shots, going though an egg retrieval procedure and sedation with its risks and the risk of complications such as hyperstimulation syndrome.

The guidelines do not have the force of law, though they have been widely followed. But demand for eggs has increased and put pressure on their price. So some high-end fertility clinics and egg-donor agencies are ignoring the guidelines and paying far more — on rare occasions in the six figures — while donors are shopping around to get the best price.

While many other countries limit egg donation and the compensation that is allowed, egg donation is essentially unregulated in the United States. But in 2000, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine established the guidelines for how much women should be paid. They say that compensation over $5,000 requires “justification,” and that more than $10,000 is “beyond what is appropriate.” The amounts have never been adjusted.

Currently, most first-time donors in California, New York and Chicago are paid $4,000 to $7,000, more than in other parts of the country. Sperm donors typically receive $75 to $100 for their comparatively carefree contribution: There is no shortage of attractive, educated donors. According to the complaint in the egg donors’ lawsuit, Kamahaki v. American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the women’s pay rates were originally set by taking the sperm donor compensation, calculating the amount of time men had to spend in a medical setting, and multiplying it by the much longer time women spent when donating eggs.

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