Jeana's World of Law

Jeana's World of Law

Friday, November 30, 2012

Does removal of the anonymity of egg donors decrease egg donations?

Guest post by Lucy Cripes

A U.K. study, 2007 has researched and reported on how to keep the number of egg donors constant after a change in U.K. legislation in 2005, which withdrew egg donor’s anonymity.

Before the year 2005 in the United Kingdom, both egg donors and sperm donors were, by law granted anonymity. However a change of U.K. legislation in 2005 modified the rights of donors. Offspring’s of the donors at aged 18 would now have access to their donor’s identity. There would also be a cost neutrality law. This means that donors would neither make profit nor lose from their donations.

There was concern that this change in legislation could alter the numbers of people willing to make egg donations and sperm donations. Would the levels of eggs available in the egg donor bank fall? Therefore in 2004, before the change in legislation took place, the U.K. department of health conducted a study. This study helped steer decision making.

The study took place in the form of a questionnaire, circulated to fertility clinics throughout the U.K. It asked questions ranging from what was donors responses to the proposed change, did they think it would alter willingness to donate and any suggestions they may have to improve egg donations rates.

One third of the donors expressed concerns about the removal of anonymity. Their concerns ranged from unfounded concerns as would they be made legally and financially responsible for the offspring and would the law be applied retrospectively. They also expressed concerns about how their donors’ rights would be affected, and the emotional future turmoil that may occur if the offspring would choose to make contact.

However, even though concerns about the changed in legislation were very broad, there was a general consensus on how to keep donors interested and to improve recruiting if this legislation was passed. The egg donors agreed that education was the way forward.

It was agreed that education would increase awareness of what exactly egg donation required of the donor. The role of gamete donation could be explained, as its altruistic nature. The benefits of non-anonymous donation could be highlighted along with its disadvantages. Also any un-founded apprehensions towards egg donations could be ruled out. Better educated donors would make more informed decisions and not have any false beliefs about what non-anonymous donating could curtail.

The job of education, it was agreed should fall mostly to the clinics that provide treatment to future donors. In interest of good practice, each clinic should have a sound policy and practice that is audited on a regular basis.

This legislation was passed 7 years ago, therefore did the department of health carry out these suggestions to keep donor numbers high, or the same as before 2005? It would appear so. According to statistics from the Human Fertilization Embryology Authority.  In 2005 the sperm and egg donation collective number was 1222, in 2010 it was 1564. There does not appear to be any evident drop in the number of donations. Actually there seems to be an increase.

Is it time the U.S. took a look at these figures and implemented similar legislation? Would it improve the ethical problems associated with “shopping” for egg donors and sperm? Hopefully this study will at least raise some awareness of ethical issues around egg donation that need to be addressed in the U.S.

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