To what extent do infertility clinic patients, fertility industry professionals and members of the public support different forms of payment and recognition for egg and sperm donation?
While participants expressed support for reimbursement of expenses for both egg and sperm donation, payment constituting explicit financial advantage was regarded less favourably although potentially necessary to address donor gamete shortages.
In both New Zealand and Australia, commercial inducement for the supply of gametes is prohibited. This prohibition has been argued to contribute to limited availability of donor gametes with the effect of increasing waiting lists and/or the pursuit of potentially unregulated cross-border reproductive care by domestic patients requiring donor gametes.
The study was a mixed methods study drawing on data from a questionnaire completed by 434 participants from across New Zealand and Australia between November 2018 and March 2019.
Stakeholders involved in donor-assisted conception (past and present infertility patients, gamete recipients and donors), fertility industry professionals and members of the public were recruited following online advertisement of the study. All participants spoke English and primarily identified as Caucasian. Participants anonymously completed an online questionnaire gauging their support for a range of recognition and payment options. Dependent samples t-tests were used to probe for differences in support of recognition and payment options in relation to egg and sperm donation. Linear regression models were used to determine factors predicting support for the different options for both egg and sperm donation. Thematic analysis was used to identify main themes in free text question responses.
Broadly, there was agreement that donors be reimbursed for medical expenses, travel time, unpaid time away from work relating to treatments and out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the gamete donation process, with greater support suggested for egg versus sperm donors. Items gauging support for non-material recognition and tokens of thanks for donations were not significantly different between egg and sperm donation programmes (P > 0.05) nor rated as highly as reimbursement alternatives. Lowest ratings of support were indicated for the outright payment or reward of donors for the supply of their gametes, options that would leave donors in better financial positions. Qualitatively, themes valuing gamete donation as ideally relating to gifting were identified, although counterbalanced in opinion by concepts of fairness in reimbursing gamete donors for their costs. Where payment over and above the reimbursement of costs was supported, this was related to pragmatic considerations of limited supply of donor gametes.
This study used a cross-sectional design and consequently causal inferences cannot be made. Additionally, participants particularly professional fertility staff, were required to self-report on politically sensitive and legal issues with the potential for social desirability response bias. Snowball sampling may have led to participation of like-minded individuals, thus limiting generalizations of findings.
In a climate of global commercialization of reproductive medicine, limited donor gamete availability and rising incidences of cross-border reproductive care, the findings of this study can be used as a basis for further discussion between regulators and professional industry stakeholders with respect to shaping ethical policy and practice relating to donor conception.
No external funds were sought for this work. None of the authors have any competing interests to declare.
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