Who are the ‘new’ egg donors?

What are we to make of the fact that so many UK fertility clinics now have an abundance, not to say a surfeit, of egg donors.  At a recent meeting of Progress Educational Trust focusing on donors, it was said that many donors refuse payment and are definitely not in it for the money, YET the number of potential donors coming forward since the HFEA starting ‘paying’ £750 per cycle with the possibility of also claiming expenses on top, has hugely increased.

I have had contact with a woman who is on the waiting list for egg donation at several UK clinics.  It is very important to her that her donor is someone who has really thought through what she is doing and understands about being available for a young person in 18 years time.  She was told by one clinic that of the ‘altruistic’ donors coming forward, many were young Eastern European women.  The clinic were happy to have them because of their fertility but apparently they are not necessarily very healthy and are often unreliable.   Continuing with her probing questions, my correspondent discovered that the bulk of egg donors at a leading group of clinics are local women who have been unable to find work because of the current economic climate.   Both cases suggest women who have been attracted to donating primarily for the payment available, not to satisfy a need to do something good or give something back…true altruism.

Why does any of this matter?  Isn’t it wonderful that donors should be available and that people wanting an identifiable donor now don’t have to compromise their principles by going abroad.  Well yes, BUT…

Could this be short term gain for long term heart ache?  Parents conceive in this country apparently secure in the knowledge that the donor will be open to giving information to or even meeting their child in the future, but actually the donor had no real intention of fulfilling this moral contract because their short-term gain was the money they received for their eggs.

There has been an interesting thread on the Fertility Friends website about a preference for egg sharers whom some recipients feel may be more committed to the altruistic principle (despite receiving benefits in kind) than the ‘new egg donors’ because they understand the deep desire for a child and are likely to look after themselves in the run-up to an IVF cycle.

All this points to a great need for some high quality research on the changing profile of egg donors since the payment has been introduced.  Luckily voicing my concerns about this has engaged the interest of a couple of leading researchers in this field.  Let’s hope they get the money to carry it out.

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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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One Response to Who are the ‘new’ egg donors?

  1. Kriss Fearon says:

    *flashing sign of buttons being pushed*

    I will try to avoid hobby horsing on this thread but just wanted to make three points.

    1) I really wish people would stop conflating payment with expenses and what happens at one private clinic as reflecting what happens all over the country, including in NHS clinics who are struggling to pay this fee as they struggled to pay expenses before April of last year. It’s true, people are attracted by the fee before they know what donation involves. And usually finding that out puts people off – if it doesn’t, then the reason they originally turned up at the clinic doesn’t matter by that point because they understand what they’re getting into.

    2) If clinic staff want to make snide remarks about the motivation of the people who come forward then perhaps they would like to stop accepting them as donors. It’s one thing to note someone’s initial motivation but if that’s not used to make sure people get a balanced view in implications counselling, then that is a massive disservice to donors. If private clinics are prepared to make money out of them anyway, they don’t have any grounds to complain and actually that attitude leaves a very sour taste in my mouth.

    3) As a donor I would love to be sure the people I donated to wanted to become parents for the right reasons, but I don’t have any rights in that regard and pretty much have to cross my fingers that it will all be OK since I have no control whatsoever. And knowing quite a few women who donated before they had kids I would argue quite strongly that you don’t need children of your own to understand why other people want them, to be altruistic, to look after yourself. It’s comments like that, so different from the kind of issues that donors come up with on the NGDT donor list, which make me think the people who say them just haven’t ever talked to any donors. Seems to me like a lot of these worries stem from lack of control over the process, which is upsetting of course, but that doesn’t make them any less misplaced.

    *and breathe*

    It’s a shame the NGDS bid has meant work publishing the donor satisfaction survey has been delayed but there’s some information in there about donor motivaton and attitudes towards finances that would be relevant. It might be worth contacting Ruth to ask when this will be released.

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