Donor Compensation:

The Media Spin

Several months ago, World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer aired a story about egg donation compensation; unfortunately, the story was the same we see perpetuated by so much of the media, the ever-present story about the high demand for and big bucks offered to donors of certain physicality and/or academic status. One ABC News staffer, posing as a donor candidate, was told, when calling a local agency and telling them of her physicality, “Blondes move fast” and another was told that because she was a Wellesley College student she could likely be compensated $25,000.00 per donation. Same old story, same distorted message to the public.

Prior to the story having been aired, I spent time (a good deal of it) with an ABC producer for a story about egg donation. The producer interviewing me was very clear that her position, with respect to donor compensation, was one of free-hand of the market, but that World News Tonight was interested in doing a different sort of story about collaborative reproduction. We talked about the evolution and commodification of the egg donation industry (”industry”…I hate using that reference), we talked about self-regulation amongst professionals, we talked about government intervention (I shared my perspective that I do think we can effectively self-regulate but that we have some distance to go before we get there), we talked about compassionate donation, truly altruistic donors and we talked about the fact that there are no barriers to entering the egg donation agency arena, that anyone can hang a virtual shingle as an agency and about how vulnerable the consumer is because of the, at best, soft standards of practices some clinicians/physicians require of the agencies from whom they will accept donors. We talked from my hotel room in New Orleans where I was, coincidentally, attending an American Bar Association’s Assisted Reproduction Technology Law meeting intended to address complex third-party reproduction matters. ABC News and I talked about real issues.

For those who have not struggled with infertility, I understand the intrigue and the outrage to the constant media portrayal of “the donor egg biz”. I understand the strong reaction to what seemingly has developed as a commodities market for genes and I suggest, as a long-term professional in this field that there are so many of us who practice reasonably, responsibly, with ethical standards and within the prescribed guidelines, so many of us who do not suggest that “blonde (donors) move fast” but rather come to work, every day, to assist in making families, beautiful, healthy and much yearned for families. It is sad and unfortunate that the media finds the model/donor turned agency owner who donates for up to $100,000.00 a fair representative of the practices in our field. For those not in infertility treatment or otherwise closely connected to reputable practitioners, the general public, as fed by the media, is easily led towards the “eggs for sale to the highest bidder” perspective…and that is so unfortunate.

As I write this blog, I prepare, as I do everyday, to roll up my sleeves, not only to do good work with the clients I am counseling but to stay connected to colleagues as we continue to push for standardized agency practices and to create a more appropriate experience for both consumers and donor candidates and, in doing so, I’ll remind the media, I remain available for comment.

Originally prepared by Amy Demma, Esq for Prospective Families