It’s hard to put a price on human life, but exchanging cash for “donated” eggs is as close as it gets. While there’s no set limit for what men can charge for their sperm, the most a woman can be paid for her eggs—despite a much more difficult donation process—is $10,000. In a new lawsuit, though, a group of egg donors is trying to change that.    

The old argument for restricting how much egg donors can be paid was meant to guard against vulnerable women selling their eggs for purely financial reasons. Higher prices might also incentivize women to lie about their medical history in order to qualify as donors.  But proponents of change insist that eliminating the ceiling on egg-donation compensation will encourage transparency, making women aware of the risks inherent to the process.

Maggie Eastman, 34, donated her eggs 10 times before being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (which could have been worsened by the hormones she received to harvest her eggs). Eastman was quoted in The New York Times saying she was paid just $2,000 for each donation. She “didn’t know how much other people were getting. There was no one to ask.” She says she kept donating when requested because she felt guilty standing in the way of a deserving couple having a baby—but who was looking out for her health and safety?

Like all fertility treatments, egg donation carries risks, from ovarian hyperstimulation to cancer.  Advocates for change say that women are not always made aware of the extent of these risks—if they were, they would either opt out of the procedure or demand more payment to compensate.

Have you ever been an egg donor or the recipient of donor eggs?  What do you think about the way payment is currently structured? Do you think women receive adequate education about risks inherent to the egg donation process?

 

Sources:

  1. The New York Times: Egg Donors Challenge Pay Rates, Saying They Shortchange Women
  2. We Are Egg Donors