Since the first child was born with the help of a donor egg in 1984, thousands of new babies have come into the world every year thanks to egg donors. Egg donors — like sperm donors — help families! But that doesn’t mean paying egg donors isn’t contentious, or expensive.
Unfortunately, health insurance often doesn’t cover the costs of using an egg donor. In other words, the costs fall directly on the intended parent. Cost include injectable fertility medicines, time the donor takes off work for medical appointments, plus any amount of money paid to the egg donor.
How much do egg donors get paid?
Ready for a pretty huge range of costs? Egg donors in the United States are paid anywhere from absolutely zero to as much as $60,000.
How can the range be that big? Well, to start with, paying an egg donor for her eggs is illegal in much of Europe and Canada. The US, on the other hand, does not have any federal regulations or standard guidelines around egg donor payment.
At one point, the ethics committee for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommended a $10,000 limit on the amount an egg donor could be paid. In 2011, a group of women sued the committee, accusing the medical organization of violating federal antitrust laws. They argued that the guidelines artificially suppressed the amount donors could get for their eggs. The lawsuit was a success; the ASRM removed its price guidelines on egg donor payment.
But because there are no federal guidelines – even suggesting a limit has been controversial — potential donors often encounter ads from egg donor agencies offering them a chance to make tens of thousands of dollars by donating their eggs. It’s technically true…but may not be ethical. SEEDS, the Society for Ethics in Egg Donation and Surrogacy, calls for agencies to avoid focusing primarily on compensation in its ads to donors. They further caution against comparing how much a donor can make with them versus other egg donor agencies.
The ASRM ethics committee issued an opinion that calls out exorbitant egg donor payment as “an undue enticement that negatively impacts a donor’s ability to make an informed decision about the donation process and the risks involved with donation.” We agree.
The ASRM’s ethics committee warns that high compensation could lead to donors concealing crucial medical information in order to qualify for egg donation. It could also cause donors to not think through medical risks or emotional concerns simply because they need the money. Ultimately, the decision on donor pay comes down to donors and intended parents.
Is there another way?
If paying egg donors can put them at risk and puts large financial burdens on intended parents, what’s the answer?
It is possible to both reduce costs for intended parents and ensure donors are not put between a rock and a hard place. In countries like Canada, egg donation is still happening, even with bans on paying donors.
And many donors—even here in the US—make the choice altruistically, to help parents-to-be. These women may not look to make money off of someone else’s fertility challenges. Many intended parents find out that their donor made the choice because she saw others face fertility challenges, and wanted to help.
Our advice? Ask questions about how your donor’s motives, compensation, and how she found out about egg donation. We believe that egg donation should be a positive experience for everyone involved. The good news is that it can be.