July 27, 2009

Watchdog: Sperm, egg donors should be paid

A sperm and egg donor shortage in Britain means a ban on paying people to donate should be repealed, the head of the government's fertility watchdog says.

Paying donors could cut the number of childless couples traveling abroad for treatment, Lisa Jardine, chairwoman of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, told The Times of London.

The agency regulates and inspects all British clinics providing in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and the storage of human ova, sperm or embryos.

The removal of donor anonymity in 2005 and strict rules against payments have provoked a crisis in fertility treatment, forcing couples to wait years for the therapy required to start a family, The Times said.

A recent study showed that access to eggs and sperm was the main reason why hundreds of British couples became fertility tourists each month.

Jardine's recommendation raises concerns about a market in human tissue and exploitation of women, The Times said. Egg donation is invasive and involves an element of risk.

In countries that allow payment -- such as the United States, Spain and Russia -- young women often donate to wipe out debts or to fund university fees.