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Egg Donation

ASRM Settles Class Action Lawsuit Over Egg Donor Guidelines & Price Caps

Rumors of a settlement of the class action lawsuit initiated by an egg donor asserting claims of price fixing and unfair competitive business practices against the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and industry professionals appear to be accurate according to the Wall Street Journal. Worth noting that these guidelines have been largely ignored over the past several years:

The nation’s leading professional association of fertility specialists has reached a settlement with a group of women who claimed the medical group’s guidelines on human egg donor prices violated federal antitrust laws.

Two women who provided eggs to couples struggling with infertility sued the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in federal court in San Francisco in 2011, claiming that the group artificially suppressed the amount they can get for their eggs. Two other women later joined the case.

The medical group agreed to delete provisions in its guidelines concerning egg donor compensation, according to the proposed settlement filed in court last week. It also agreed to pay plaintiffs’ lawyers $1.5 million in fees and costs. The four named plaintiffs would also receive $5,000 each. The settlement needs court approval.

As WSJ’s Ashby Jones earlier reported, the lawsuit challenged egg fee guidelines established by the organization more than a decade ago. The group, which represents fertility specialists, suggested that payments for donated human eggs should not go above $5,000 without justification, and said that payments greater than $10,000 went “beyond what is appropriate.”

The price guidelines aren’t mandates. But more than 90% of the nation’s clinics belong to the society, so they’re widely followed.

Industry groups behind the price guidance say caps are needed to prevent coercion and exploitation in the egg-donation process. But the plaintiffs claimed the guidance amount to an illegal conspiracy to set prices.

Under the terms of the settlement, which still needs final court approval, ASRM agreed to delete some language from the guidelines. According to the proposed settlement:

ASRM will amend the challenged report concerning donor compensation by removing numbered paragraph 3 (which reads “[t]otal payments to donors in excess of $5,000 require justification and sums above $10,000 are not appropriate.”) and by removing the following language from page 4: “Although there is no consensus on the precise payment that oocyte donors should receive, at this time sums of $5,000 or more require justification and sums above $10,000 are not appropriate” and “A recent survey indicates that these sums are in line with the practice of most SART member clinics.”

Law Blog has sought comment from lawyers representing the medical group and the plaintiffs.

“We are pleased that we have been able to reach an agreement with the defendants that, in our view, will benefit the class by removing a compensation guideline that plaintiffs alleged violated the antitrust laws,” Ellen Meriwether, an attorney at Cafferty Clobes Meriwether & Sprengel LLP who represented the plaintiffs, told Law360, which reported on the settlement.


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