I'm Not Going to Pay Too Much for That Ovum


A story in yesterday's New York Times outlines the "controversy" about "high prices" for ova, which "stir ethical concerns." Unlike most cases where bystanders to a transaction second-guess the price one party decides to charge and another agrees to pay, the concern is not about the buyer. The critics are not worried that reproductive clinics are taking advantage of infertile couples desperate for children. Instead they're worried that reproductive clinics are taking advantage of "donors" by paying them too much. Since the drugs and surgery required to extract ova carry certain risks, the critics say, it's important that the payments be kept to a minimum.

In most areas of life, of course, people demand more money to compensate for risk. But women selling their ova have to be protected from their own greed. "The real issue," a bioethicist explains, "is whether the money can cloud someone's judgment."

The bioethicists seem to have entered into a conspiracy in restraint of trade with the clinics that buy ova. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has determined that the just price for an egg extraction is less than $5,000. Anything more, it says, would "require justification," and payments exceeding $10,000 are "beyond what is appropriate."

In the October issue of reason, Kerry Howley detailed her own victimization at the hands of ovum buyers who clouded her judgment by paying her too much.

NEXT: Blowback, Texas-Style

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  1. Hey, it’s only the commoditization of human life. How could any rational person think that’s a bad idea?

  2. Wow, Dan. Your cries for help are louder than usual lately. What happened?

  3. Yes, Jen. I get it. No dissent allowed here in the home of “Free Minds”.

  4. edit: I think the word I should have used is “commodification”

  5. Dan, you know well the difference between differing opinions and outright trolling. And whatever the hell it is that you didn’t get from your parents, I don’t know why you expect to find it here.

  6. The obvious comment is: where does the $10,000 figure come from? It seems rather arbitrary (and rather low …).

  7. Interesting fact I learned a few days ago: Some of the states that ostensibly protect stem cell and cloning research do not allow researchers to give money to women who provide eggs. Women who provide eggs for fertility treatments can receive money, but not women who provide eggs for research purposes.

  8. where does the $10,000 figure come from?

    You can bet it’s less than the doctor’s take out of the deal. Wouldn’t want to cloud anyone’s judgement and all that.

  9. Price. Fair price. And that ain’t whatever you say it is; fair price is what the market’ll bear. Now there are people, mind you, there are people in this land, who’ll pay a lot more’n twenty grand for a healthy baby.

    When I was a lad I myself fetched twenty-five thousand on the black market. And them’s 1954 dollars.

  10. If commoditization is a problem, pay no money except direct expenses.

    This is like this joke:

    Guy: Would you have sex with me for $1 million?
    Girl: Of course.
    Guy: What about $1?
    Girl: *slaps him* Are you calling me a whore?
    Guy: You did that when you accepted $1 million. We’re just haggling over price.

    The moment you pay donors anything, you’ve commoditized the donation and should pay market price. And if you don’t pay anything, good luck filling demand.

  11. jb,

    I think (though I could be wrong) that the quote is from Oscar Wilde.

    As for the the $10,000: I recall an article from a few yeras back stating that the average jury award in a death case was $1 million, thus placing the American value on human life at that number. How come the born are worth 100 times more than the unborn?

  12. A story in yesterday’s New York Times outlines the “controversy” about “high prices” for ova, which “stir ethical concerns.”

    I think Sullem has set a new record for scare quotes in a lede. I guess it’s meant to tell us that he can’t comprehend how anybody could have ethical concerns about this sort of thing.

  13. I think it’s meant to convey that he is quoting the article.

  14. Dan T.,
    “I think Sullem has set a new record for scare quotes in a lede.”

    The reason those words are in quotes may be because they are actually used in the source article, thus making them quotes. And I’m sorry if they scared you.

  15. It was Churchill who made the whore comment.

  16. How come the born are worth 100 times more than the unborn?

    Before their born, they are the perfect embodiment of all our hopes and dreams. Afterwards, they start becoming disappointments.

  17. Churchill or Shaw?

  18. If excess payments are wrong because they appeal to people’s greed instinct, how about excessive pay for politicians and bioethicists?

  19. Sounds like the doctors want to keep supply costs down to drum up more business among the not-so-rich infertiles.

    What the heck, it’ll all be covered by universal health care under President Clinton!

  20. Would the bioethicists siddown and shaddup if the transaction went less for cash and more for an in-kind exchange? Given the stated risks to ova donation, I’m thinking egg donors should demand an escrow account to cover the premiums for a mid-gold-plated, mid-deductible, 3rd party PPO health insurance plan (protected from inflation for themselves over their lifetimes) until the donor herself emerges from prime childbearing years, say 40, or menopause. I estimate the current premium at roughly $3000/year, and is subject to 7% year-over-year inflation. Assuming the escrow account could return 10%, for a 22 year old to 55 I calculate the NPV at just about exactly $60,000. If the escrow account returns 5%, $130,000. There: solid compensation aligned with the risks, without the bioethically-distateful wad of cash upfront.

  21. Groucho Marx wrote about using that line at a dinner party.

  22. In summary: women are bimbos who are unable to decide what’s in our own best interest as soon as someone waves a big-enough wad of cash.

  23. Don’t women generally recieve compensation in proportion to their level of education? How can anyone argue that more money will lead to victimization when the women receiving large amounts of money are the ones best equipped (in theory) to make decisions?

  24. i agree with Dave. If anything lowering prices would probably result in only women with poor judgment doing it; an educated woman is not going to go through the hassle for a price lower than it’s worth, while a woman who may have a history of making poor choices and is desperate for cash still will, even if it’s another poor choice for her. And I really disliked Howley’s article, one of the few of hers I can say that about.

  25. In summary: women are bimbos who are unable to decide what’s in our own best interest as soon as someone waves a big-enough wad of cash.

    Only if the person saying it has the proper feminist cred.

    Otherwise the person saying it is a patriarchal cretin.

    Very important distinction.

  26. Hey, it’s only the commoditization of human life. How could any rational person think that’s a bad idea?

    So an ovum is a life? Oooh, keep it down, Dan T., the pro-choice movement might have a bone to pick on that one.

  27. Wow, 3 famous people…I only heard that as an anonymous joke.

    The punch line is still true: As long as there’s any compensation above expenses, it’s commercialized and you should pay the market price.

  28. Is the headline a take from the old Midas commercials, I’m not gonna pay a lot for this muffler?

    By the way, I too am disgusted with the commercialization of human life. Food and shelter should be free, created from the ether.

  29. Kerry Howley’s egg is worth more than a snaggle toothed, high school dropout with a 90 IQ, so why shouldn’t she be able to charge more for it?

    From a personal perspective though, I can not imagine having so much money that I would be the least interested in buying a human egg. In KH’s case, I will pay for the incubator though.

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