I’m back, but the HFEA is looking the wrong way

Well, I’ve left behind the blue seas and skies of Turkey – if you discount the four days when the rain lashed and the wild wind blew – and returned to a maelstrom of deadlines and issues that need both thought and action. The good news is that while I was away Zannah edited together and sent to Poland the film she had taken of  me, Walter and her talking about our family and DC Network.  Sadly no time to get subtitles put on, but let’s hope that this can be done the other end and that seeing a family comfortable with openness will help move things along just a bit in a country that is reluctant to move away from secrecy.

The bad news is that the recommendation being put to the HFEA board at their meeting this Wednesday is that donors should be ‘compensated’ for the time and trouble involved in donating to the tune of £35 for each visit a sperm donor makes to the clinic and £750 for each cycle undertaken by an egg donor.  Principles rather than evidence are apparently leading this proposal which ignores the fact that of the 700 responses received at consultation, 72 per cent favoured increasing awareness, 60 per cent a recruitment campaign and 49 per cent (mostly clinicians) supported the provision of financial incentives as ways of increasing the number of donors.  It also ignores their own quoted principle of altruism and European law where the EU Tissues and Cells Directive states explicitly that donation programmes ‘should be founded on the philosophy of voluntary and unpaid donation’.

In many ways the focus on actual amounts for ‘compensation’ distracts from the much more important issue that most clinics do not operate properly constructed recruitment programmes, such as those in place at the London Women’s Clinic and Manchester Fertility Services.  These clinics decided long ago that cherishing and valuing donors was the way towards better and more recruitment…and it works!  Kamal Ahuja from LWC has demonstrated that changing attitudes and clinic practices to become more donor friendly attracts men and women who are happy to donate, fully understanding their responsibilities to donor conceived people, and often without claiming expenses at all.  Some would consider ‘compensation’ or payment by the back door as an insult to their wish to help others.  If these clinics can manage this why are others not following?  The recent report by the Nuffield Council on Bio-Ethics into Donation recommends that a national or regional donor service should be established to provide an infrastructure for egg and sperm donation, along similar lines to the structures currently in place for organ donation.  Currently there is virtually no co-operation between clinics and advertising, if attempted at all, is done individually.

I will be returning to this topic over the next few days as there are many other issues, ethical and practical to address.  In the meantime here are some links you might like to follow –

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it: why the HFEA should leave the gamete donation policy alone by Kamal Ahuja in last week’s Bio-News http://www.bionews.org.uk/page_107736.asp?dinfo=TsrxqZzpB8QHn8T5n8xVjOP6

Evidence and models of best practice should guide recruitment of gamete donors by Eric Blyth, Olga Van den Akker and Jenny Hunt in Bio News of todays date http://www.bionews.org.uk/page_109712.asp

Papers for the HFEA meeting on Wednesday can be found at http://www.hfea.gov.uk/docs/2011-10-19_Authority_papers-full_set(1).pdf

Full report, separate summary and recommendations from Nuffield Council on Bio-Ethics http://nuffieldbioethics.org/donation

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About oliviasview

Co-founder and now Practice Consultant at Donor Conception Network. Mother to two donor conceived adults and a son conceived without help in my first marriage.
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