The papers for the Donation Review section of the HFEA meeting tomorrow make pretty depressing reading. It is very clear that they never seriously at any time considered NOT compensating donors in some way or other. I’m not talking about reimbursing expenses or even loss of earnings – of course donors should not be out of pocket – but ‘compensation’ for time and trouble. Hang on a minute, doesn’t making a donation mean making a gift, freely given. Former donors known to me say that just knowing they were contributing to human happiness by giving the potential for life made the whole business, inconvenience, time and trouble, all worth while. We don’t ‘compensate’ for gift giving, we say thank-you and think warmly of the qualities of generosity and thoughtfulness that a child might inherit. But no, the HFEA wants us to look to Spain for the amount we ‘compensate’ egg donors and to Denmark for sperm donors. Apparently they think that the £750 per cycle and £35 per clinic visit in these respective countries do not constitute an incentive to donate. Well, I can think of many students to whom £750 per term would help significantly with university living expenses and in this economic climate many people whose rent burden is great enough to consider making money by selling their gametes. Because that is what it would be with money like this being paid to egg and sperm providers. In both Spain and Denmark ‘donors’ are anonymous and do not have to be identifiable to any children created. In most of Spain’s very many fertility clinics the only information given to recipients about the donor is her age and blood group. The nationality or ethnic origin of the donor may not even be Spanish but recipient parents are not told this, leaving them to wonder what they should tell their children. Demand for egg donors is very high in Spain – fertility treatment is a major earner of foreign currency – but they seem to have no difficulty recruiting women willing to donate/sell their eggs. Could it be that the Euro equivalent of £750 has something to do with this?Certainly neither country provides a role model that the UK should be following.
I will have to watch how I manage my feelings tomorrow.