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29 Apr 2014

Women who undergo the inconvenience and discomfort of donating their eggs to help others conceive might be paid for their efforts under changes being considered by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

In a controversial step, the NHMRC has raised the possibility of a financial reward for women egg donors as part of a review of ethical guidelines on the use of assisted reproductive technology.

The peak medical advisory body has invited public comment on the suggestion, which could run counter to current laws prohibiting trade on body tissue, including eggs and sperm, limiting payment to the reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses.

The proposed change has come amid rising demand for donor eggs and sperm from infertile individuals and couples.

According the Sun Herald, the number of women turning to assisted reproductive technologies to conceive children is growing rapidly. IN 2011 alone, there were 66,000 cycles undertaken in Australia and New Zealand, a 7 per cent increase from the previous year.

Significantly, two-thirds of those using donor eggs, sperm or embryos to conceive are older than 40 years, and this age group now accounts for a quarter of all IVF cycles.

Fertility specialist Professor Michael Chapman has made a submission to the review calling for payments to egg donors to be allowed.

“We can’t offer egg donors anything at the moment,” Professor Chapman told the Sun Herald. “They have to have two weeks of injections and go through a procedure. payment could make a difference to the availability of eggs and sperm.”

Such a move could bring Australian women into line with their British counterparts after the UK Government in 2012 passed a law to raise compensation for egg donors to $1355.

Writing in The Conversation at the time, University of Tasmania sociologist Meredith Nash urged Australian policymakers to follow the UK lead.

Ms Nash said reliance on altruistic egg donors meant many women with fertility problems were on very long waiting lists, or faced the prospect of becoming a “reproductive tourist” somewhere like India, where payments to surrogates and egg donors meant there was virtually no waiting time.

Adrian Rollins

Published: 29 Apr 2014