Shocking Revelation: Human Egg Buyers Pay What the Market Will Bear

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egg donation flyer

Just got a press release from America's oldest bioethics think tank, the Hastings Center, expressing apparent horror that fertility clinics will often pay donors who are students at leading universities more than $10,000 for their eggs. From the press release:

Many egg donation agencies and private couples routinely exceed compensation recommendation limits for potential donors, a new study finds.

From a sample of over 300 college newspapers, findings revealed that almost one-quarter of advertisements offered payment in excess of $10,000, a violation of guidelines issued by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). 

Compensation strongly correlated with average SAT score of the university's students, according to the study published in The Hastings Center Report by researcher Aaron D. Levine, of the Georgia Institute of Technology. In addition, approximately one-quarter of the advertisements listed specific requirements for potential donors, such as appearance or ethnicity. This also goes against ASRM guidelines, which prohibit linking compensation to donor personal characteristics.

Holding all else equal, such as demand for in vitro fertilization within a state and donor agency variables, Levine found that each increase of 100 SAT points in the average for a university increased the compensation offered to egg donors at that school by $2,350. 

Of the advertisements violating ASRM guidelines, many offered $20,000, several offered $35,000, and one was as high as $50,000. Current ASRM guidelines recommend that sums of $5,000 or more require justification and sums above $10,000 are not appropriate.

The extent to which compensation limits are appropriate remains an open question, says Levine, but industry steps to self-regulate could alleviate concerns about exploitation. Monetary thresholds may be valuable if these limits protect a substantial number of potential donors from undue pressure to donate. Levine suggests verifying donor agency compliance (which is currently self-reported) or changing the format of advertisements.

Presumably the ASRM could throw fertility clinics who violate its price fixing guidelines out and consumers could decide if ASRM membership matters to them. In any case, I have always found that paying people more as an inducement to provide a good or a service to be an odd definition of "exploitation." I personally welcome being "exploited" in that manner. I should note that the Hastings Center press release does conclude on a note of bioethical sanity:

In a related commentary, John A. Robertson, of the University of Texas, argues against greater regulation, and calls the current guidelines into question themselves. "After all, we allow individuals to choose their mates and sperm donors on the basis of such characteristics," he writes. "Why not choose egg donors similarly?"

Why not indeed?

Please read my colleague Kerry Howley's fascinating article, "Ova For Sale," detailing her personal experience as an egg seller.

NEXT: Democratic Pollster on Health Care: "We need to go out and sell this plan and sell it aggressively."

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  1. Hah. I got 12 for $1.40, and I bet they were way tastier than those.

    Suckers…

    1. You can either suck eggs or succeed.

    2. But your kids scratch the ground when their hungry and peck their playmates when annoyed.

      1. Fuckin’ homonyms.

        1. Hey! No anti-gay postings on this thread.

  2. In addition, approximately one-quarter of the advertisements listed specific requirements for potential donors, such as appearance or ethnicity. This also goes against ASRM guidelines, which prohibit linking compensation to donor personal characteristics.

    If I’m buying 50% of my childs genetic heritage on the open market, you can goddam bet that I’m going to consider donor personal characteristics. These bioethicisits don’t spend a whole fuckin’ lot of time in the real world, do they?

    In a related commentary, John A. Robertson, of the University of Texas, argues against greater regulation, and calls the current guidelines into question themselves. “After all, we allow individuals to choose their mates and sperm donors on the basis of such characteristics,” he writes. “Why not choose egg donors similarly?”

    A voice of reason echoing my somewhat less polite response.

    1. It’s far preferable that people choose their mates based on alcohol consumption and the pub’s lighting. Actually putting thought into the desired qualities is unethical.

      1. If people considered mates thoroughly, then detestable pricks like bioethicists might have a harder time reproducing. That’s, like, eugenics or whatever, man. Like the Nazis, or when chicks refuse to bone skeevy dudes and dorks.

  3. I’ve considered donating eggs at one point, but I heard that there were some low-level risks involved. Still, I wouldn’t want to fuck up my ovaries. But I’ve never really had it spelled out exactly how risky or not this is.

    1. And it has to be a little uncomfortable as well.

    2. Same here. The money looked tempting in college, but then I heard horror stories about getting pumped full of hormones and chickened (pun intended) out.

  4. And the bear market will egg on paying the humans.

  5. Somewhat apropos.

  6. I will be visiting my alma mater this weekend, maybe on Friday I will swing by and punch Aaron Levine in his eggs.

    Although, Im not really sure what his position on the matter is, mostly it sounds like he just researched the price differences, so maybe I will ask him before punching him.

  7. I’ve seen plenty for ads for an egg donation program in New Jersey called “DreamMakers”, offering $8,000 per. Seemed to be on the up-and-up, we’re-just-another-business business.

  8. “Compensation strongly correlated with average SAT score of the university’s students, according to the study”

    What an inherently useless metric. And racist to boot!

  9. says Levine […] industry steps to self-regulate could alleviate concerns about exploitation

    Right.

    Because it is so much less exploitive to pay the donor a pittance for the risk and discomfort of the procedure.

    Sure.

    What is it with self identified “ethicists”?

  10. Whatever happened to “my body, my choice”?

    1. Apparently that isnt supposed to be a general principle that you can apply to any issue. One issue only, you fool.

    2. Obamacare.

    3. “Choice” is trumped by the left’s aversion to “profit”.

  11. “After all, we allow individuals to choose their mates and sperm donors on the basis of such characteristics,”

    Sometimes just on the number of beers we’ve have had.

    “You have to have a license to own a dog, but any asshole can have a kid.” – Socrates

    1. Fairly confident ancient Athens didn’t require dog licenses.

      1. Not based on what So Crates said…

      2. Athens didn’t require man-on-boy action, but that didn’t seem to stop them.

        1. I’m so glad I live in a society that’s stomped that out.

  12. Help me out here. I thought it was “exploitation” when you pay a worker less than some busybody thinks they should be paid. Now it’s exploitation to pay somebody more for their eggs than said busybody thinks they should be paid. How does “too little” equal “too much”?

    I also don’t understand why money creating an “undue pressure to donate” is a problem. Doesn’t demand for donor eggs exceed supply? Aren’t happy mothers a good thing?

  13. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

  14. And I’m a day too late to say it:

    Poor bailout bankers, those bonuses were obviously a form of exploitation against them. We must protect our vulnerable investment bankers against this abuse.

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