What Policies Govern Egg Donation?
The United States is characterized
by a significant lack of regulation regarding reproductive technology.
Because most infertility research is not federally funded, the fertility
industry has more autonomy than other areas of health. Reproductive
technology is one of the least regulated medical specialties in the US,
and physicians and researchers are relatively free to formulate their own
policies about procedural standards and ethical questions.
Unlike most of Europe, US policy
does not require infertility clinics to be licensed by law, and no uniform
standards exist about proper methods for egg donor recruitment and care.
Many physicians and researchers oppose increased regulation, and the current
lack of legislation seems to encourage the "laissez-faire" approach to
reproductive technology. However, growing sentiments within the US,
and agreement within much of the international community, seem to suggest
that increased oversight will be necessary in the future to ensure high
quality reproductive care and minimize harm.
Are Other Countries Doing?
Existing international policies
provide examples of the ways other nations have chosen to address the ethical
dilemmas raised by gamete donation:
Should We Go From Here?
Great Britain, under the Human
Fertilization and Embryology Act of 1990, limits allowable compensation
for gamete donors. Egg and sperm donors may receive reimbursement
for expenses, as well and up to 15 pounds (approximately $24) in payment.
The existing regulatory body, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority
(HFEA), discourages clinics from using donors they suspect have been paid
and promotes altruistic gamete donation.
Israel, Denmark, and Canada have
policies discouraging the use of paid gamete donors and have regulatory
bodies to oversee the developments of reproductive technology.
Australia, Spain, and Greece
promote egg sharing as a source of ova, which results when one infertile
woman undergoes ovarian hyperstimulation and shares her retrieved eggs
with other infertile couples. This reduces the risk to third party
donors who would otherwise not be exposed to possible harm through the
Although governmental oversight
may not be the best answer to the questions raised by reproductive technology,
some form of a regulatory body should address these questions. Although
many other industrialized nations have offices dedicated to the analysis
of ethical problems raised by reproductive technology, the United States
has no clear authority in this area. Many physicians and researchers
feel that regulation and oversight would be most appropriate coming from
within the medical community, and this will only come with stronger unity
and increased awareness among health care providers. The American
Society for Reproductive Medicine, which offers a voluntary accredidation
program for infertility clinics, provides a good basis for the development
of future regulatory mechanisms.
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