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Assisted Reproduction

The New York Times Looks At The Egg Donor Price Fixing Lawsuit & ASRM Guidelines

On the eve of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine’s Annual Conference, Tamar Lewin of the New York Times with a must-read article on the class action lawsuit brought by egg donors challenging the ASRM Guidelines:

In a federal lawsuit, a group of women are challenging industry guidelines that say it is “inappropriate” to pay a woman more than $10,000 for her eggs. The women say the $10,000 limit amounts to illegal price-fixing, and point out that there is no price restriction on the sale of human sperm. A federal judge has certified the claim as a class action, which will most likely go to trial next year.
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The guidelines do not have the force of law, though they have been widely followed. But demand for eggs has increased and put pressure on their price. So some high-end fertility clinics and egg-donor agencies are ignoring the guidelines and paying far more — on rare occasions in the six figures — while donors are shopping around to get the best price. The case could shake up the $80 million egg-donor market by spurring more negotiation. It is a potent reminder that egg donation is a big business, though one with many more inherent ethical issues than others.

While many other countries limit egg donation, and the compensation that is allowed, egg donation is essentially unregulated in the United States. But in 2000, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine established the guidelines for how much women should be paid. They say that compensation over $5,000 requires “justification,” and that more than $10,000 is “beyond what is appropriate.” The amounts have never been adjusted.

The society argues that capping the price ensures that low-income young women are not drawn to donate by a huge payout without considering how it may affect their lives.

Andrew Vorzimer, a lawyer in Woodland Hills, Calif., who specializes in reproductive law and formerly owned an egg-donation business, said, “I’ve drafted contracts for egg donors in the six figures.”

“The guidelines are a joke,” he said. “There’s no teeth.”

Mr. Vorzimer said he believed that some guidelines were necessary — both to prevent exploitation of younger women, and to prevent prices from rising so high that only the richest families would have access to donor eggs.

Sperm donors typically receive $75 to $100 for their comparatively carefree contribution: There is no shortage of attractive, educated donors. According to the complaint in the egg donors’ lawsuit, Kamahaki v. American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the women’s pay rates were originally set by taking the sperm donor compensation, calculating the amount of time men had to spend in a medical setting, and multiplying it by the much longer time women spent when donating eggs.

“Since the process of donating eggs is far more painful and risky than is the process for donating sperm, a price paid for donor services that does not account for those differences must be artificially low,” the complaint said.


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