Saturday, March 27, 2010

When is Payment For Human Life OK?

Egg donors offered up to $50,000

Fees far exceed ethics guidelines, study finds

Fertility companies are paying egg donors high fees that often exceed guidelines, especially for donors from top colleges and with certain appearances and ethnicities, a new study finds.

The upshot: Parents with infertility problems are willing to pay up to $50,000 for a human egg they hope will produce a smart, attractive child.

While there are few government regulations controlling the use of this technology, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), a professional organization, has issued guidelines. The ASRM ethics committee recommends limits on the amount of money egg donors should be paid, saying "sums of $5,000 or more require justification and sums above $10,000 are not appropriate." Yet the recent study found that out of more than 100 egg-donor ads from 300 college newspapers, about half offered fees above $5,000, with a quarter of the ads touting payments exceeding the $10,000 limit.

SAT scores matter [a good reason to get those kids to study harder!]

The study also found that the advertised fees correlated with the average SAT score (standardized test used for college admissions) at the college where the ad was placed, which suggests agencies are paying more to donors who appear more intelligent. This too is a violation of the guidelines, which state that compensation should not vary according to donors' "ethnic or other personal characteristics."

The guidelines were set up to avoid ethical dilemmas associated with putting a price on the seeds for human life, according to the ASRM. And scaling that price based on certain human genetic material that is considered superior is especially worrying to some.

"Commodification is a concern when­ever any monetary value is placed on human oocytes [eggs], but particularly when high values are placed on hu­man oocytes from donors with spe­cific characteristics — a practice that also raises eugenic concerns," wrote the researcher, Aaron D. Levine, a professor of public policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in a paper in The Hastings Center Report.

Yet most of the ads Levine found in his study contained appearance or eth­nicity requirements for donors.

The problem is that there are few oversights to make sure fertility clinics and egg donation agencies obey the guidelines, and there are few serious consequences for those who flout the rules. [NO DUH! - same is true in adoption! "Ethical guidelines" with no accountability of enforcement.]

...only about half of the ads offered $5,000 or less — within the guidelines. Advertisements in the Harvard Crimson, the Daily Princetonian, and the Yale Daily News offered $35,000, and an ad in the Brown Daily Herald offered $50,000 to "an extraordinary egg donor." Many of these high-end fees were promised on behalf of particular couples using agencies to recruit a donor. Other objections to such high fees for egg donors rest on the worry that the money could induce women to overlook the risks or drawbacks of donating, potentially creating a situation in which women are being exploited.

"It may lead some women to become egg donors who would not otherwise do so, but that does not mean that they have been exploited, much less unfairly induced," wrote law professor John A. Robertson of the University of Texas in a related commentary in The Hastings Center Report. Robinson is a previous chair of the ASRM ethics committee, and was not involved in Levine's study.

He pointed out that banning payments to egg donors would drastically reduce the number of donated eggs available, presumably because the financial compensation is a large part of the motivating factor for egg donors. [And this is a problem because?....what about all those "unwanted" "orphans" "languishing" in orphanages? Not to mention the 129,000 kids in U.S., foster care who could be adopted -- who prompt tax credit increases every year!]

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