conditions. The alleged situation in Dr. Hwang’s laboratory raises the issue of coercion both because subordinate women in the laboratory allegedly donated eggs, and because some women were allegedly paid for their eggs. A 2002 study conducted by a University of Pennsylvania student raised the issue of insufficient information, finding that a number programs seeking donor eggs for reproductive purposes were not up front about the risks involved in egg retrieval. The wide consensus regarding the need for informed consent necessarily implies similar consensus on the need for an information-rich, coercion-free method of obtaining eggs; however, there is some disagreement on the specifics of whether payment for eggs necessarily constitutes coercion.
The prospect of paying women for their eggs, which has been debated in the context of seeking donor eggs both for reproductive purposes (for example, to enable women who do not produce their own eggs to become pregnant), and for research purposes, is not unheard of in the United States. According to a 2000 study by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), some IVF programs reportedly offered as much as $5,000 for one egg retrieval cycle, though $2,500
appeared to be a more ($50,000-$100,000) have
of much higher amounts
reportedly made are not illegal in
payments of $1,400 to each woman who donated eggs. Payments the Unites States, nor were they illegal in South Korea at the time
Dr. Huang’s laboratory allegedly made them. The questions are, is donation ever acceptable, and if so, what amount is appropriate?
Several arguments have been put forth in favor of payment for egg donation, many focused on donation for reproductive purposes. First, some have argued that payment creates incentives to increase the number of egg donors, thus facilitating research and benefitting infertile couples. Second, some reason that payment for eggs gives women parity with sperm donors, who may be compensated for donating gametes at a lower rate, given that they require a much less involved procedure. Third, some allege that fairness dictates that women who donate eggs ought to be able to benefit from their action. Fourth, some claim that pressures created by financial incentives may be no greater than those experienced by women asked to make altruistic egg donations for relatives or friends, and may thus not rise to the level of coercion. These are the types of arguments that led ASRM to recommend in 2000 that sums of up to $5,000 may be appropriate for typical egg donation, while sums of up to $10,000 may possibly be justified if there are particular difficulties a woman must endure to make her donation.
Several arguments have also been put forth against payment for egg donation. First, some voiced fears that payment might lead to the exploitation of women, particularly poor women, and the commodification of reproductive tissues. Second, some have argued that payment for eggs for research purposes might undermine public confidence in endeavors such as human ESR. Arguments such as these have prompted both the NAS and the PCBE to recommend that women not be paid for donating their eggs for research purposes. It also led the PCBE to note that in theory, there is the possibility that eggs could be procured from ovaries harvested from cadavers, which might at least alleviate concerns related to coercion.