Watchdog to look again at pay for fertility donors

LONDON (Reuters) - The country’s fertility watchdog will reconsider a ban on selling sperm and eggs because of a national shortage of donors, its chairman said on Monday.

Professor Lisa Jardine, head of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, said action might be needed to encourage more people to come forward as donors and to stop couples travelling abroad for treatment.

Under current rules introduced in 2006, donors cannot be paid for donating eggs or sperm but can claim “expenses” up to a maximum of 250 pounds.

According to the HFEA, the number of women treated with donated sperm fell from almost 9,000 in 1992 to just over 2,000 in 2007, while the Times said the number of treatment cycles using donated eggs fell by 25 percent between 2004-2006.

A 2005 law which removed anonymity for donors is also thought to have led to a fall in donors.

“I’m not saying the decision arrived at before I became chair wasn’t the right one at the time,” Jardine told the Times.

“But given the evidence that egg shortage is driving women overseas, I feel a responsibility to look at it again.”

In the United States, a 2007 study by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine found the U.S. national average payment to women for egg donations was $4,216 (2,500 pounds) . The Society has recommended total payments to donors be capped at $10,000.

Jardine said she had no view on how much donors should be paid, if at all, but said payment might help keep patients in British clinics.

“My agenda is to try to keep assisted reproduction within our regulated area, not because I’m bossy but out of concern for patient welfare,” she said.

Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Kate Kelland