Women who donate their eggs to research in the United Kingdom should be compensated for the discomfort, risk, and inconvenience they undergo according to a report published yesterday by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. In their report " Human bodies: donation for medicine and research," the influential think tank also recommends that the U.K. National Health Service (NHS) pay for the funerals of organ donors.
The debate over the ethics of paying egg donors has been revived after the news last week that researchers in New York had come a step closer to using human eggs to turn adult cells into embryonic stem cells. That group paid their donors $8000 each. At the same time, another set of scientists published an account of their failed attempts to recruit egg donors in Massachusetts without pay.
Currently British regulators cap the reimbursement for sperm and egg donation at £250 ($390). The amount is intended to cover direct expenses such as travel or parking. The new report recommends that donors for fertility treatments be reimbursed for lost wages as well.
Women who are willing to donate eggs to research should also receive payment for their time, inconvenience, and discomfort, the report says. "We see the donation of eggs for research purposes as really quite comparable to people who volunteer for phase I medical trials," says Albert Weale, chair of the Nuffield Council. The report emphasizes that there should be limits on the number of times a person could donate.
In its other recommendations, the report says that researchers should share tissues donated by patients or the general public. "It is not acceptable for individual researchers or research groups to hinder, inhibit or refuse access to other researchers for scientifically valid research" on freely donated samples, the report states.
The council recommends that NHS conduct a pilot study paying for the funerals of organ donors to see if such a program might boost donation rates. Under the scheme, NHS would pay funeral expenses for people who were on the national Organ Donation Register if they died under circumstances in which their organs could be donated. It also recommends asking families at the time that they authorize organ donation if they would also be willing to donate other tissues for research purposes.