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By Robin von Halle

Donor Agent Provocateur appeared last week in the New York Times Magazine column, The Ethicist, by Ariel Kaminer. The Ethicist responded to a reader’s questions regarding the ethical implications of a situation involving a fertility consultant hired by a Chicago couple interested in finding an egg donor sharing some of their ethnic background. The fertility consultant was ultimately unsuccessful in finding a donor of the particular ethnicity; however, she now refuses to refund their retainer. Did the fertility consultant behave ethically? ARR agrees with The Ethicist’s assertion that, as a professional consultant offering a service, it is unequivocally unethical to charge a fee for a service which, in reality, the fertility consultant did not intend to provide.

As a third party reproductive agency facilitating roughly 130 matches each year, ARR serves as an advocate and support system for donors, surrogates and intended parents alike. Our role is to be a resource,  providing the tools and expertise to help intended parents to make informed decisions and navigate a complex process. As opposed to the fertility consultant, ARR does not ask for a deposit until we have successfully matched a couple and donor. We do not believe it is ethical to accept payment until all parties involved are ready and willing to move forward. Intended parents are under no financial obligations until an official match has been made, and if for some reason a donor is unable to move forward, the couple would be re-matched at no additional fee.

Above all, ARR never promises unrealistic matches. It is not uncommon for intended parents to request a donor that shares some of their own traits or cultural background. We do work with couples seeking a donor of a specific ethnicity. If we do not have a donor in our database matching the particular criteria desired, then we direct the couple to Donor Network Alliance to continue their search. That being said,  in our twenty plus years of experience, an ethnic match is typically not deal a breaker. More importantly is finding a healthy, young, fertile donor with traits similar to that of the intended parents, if so desired. The majority of the time, when working with a reputable agency, a fertility consultant becomes a duplication of services, which add another layer of cost to the intended parents.

By Robin von Halle

The Hastings Center, a nonpartisan research institution dedicated to bioethics and public interest, recently published a study of compensation rates in ads for egg donors in 300 college newspapers.

It found that a quarter of the ads offered more than $10,000 to women for donation of their eggs. Offers in the ads ranged from $10,000 to as much as $50,000. The study also found a compensation increase of $2,350 for each additional 100 SAT points in the average score for a given university.

Clearly, there’s something wrong with this picture. The idea of incremental compensation based on one measure of intelligence lends itself to the idea of “designer babies,” where intended parents pay premiums for certain traits that are deemed socially desirable.

It also flies in the face of guidelines of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine stating that compensation over $10,000 is inappropriate. Should payments to egg donors increase without limits, so would the chances that women will discount the risks of donation. The ASRM also emphasizes that higher payments based on socially desirable traits or measures (like SAT scores) devalue the human life and turn an egg into a commodity.

Under our philosophy of doing business, ARR has made a promise to all intended parents and egg donors that we will compensate egg donors for their time, effort and inconvenience. Each donor’s effort is equally valuable. Intended parents are privy to certain information about egg donors so they can use a donor with characteristics similar to their own, not to pick and choose features like you would a car.

It is crucial that egg donation agencies adhere closely to the ASRM guidelines. There is too much controversy and misunderstanding about what we do to add fuel to the fire by allowing ethics to fall by the wayside.

By Robin von Halle

You may have heard it on the news: “Octomom” Nadya Suleman’s doctor has been expelled from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) for transferring six embryos into the 33-year old woman, which resulted in the much-discussed birth of eight babies (after two of the embryos split).

Good move.

We have been working with the fertility industry for more than 15 years. As the industry grows, it’s up to us—the professionals—to make sure we’re meeting the highest standards of practices and behaviors, and follow those guidelines established by ASRM and the American Fertility Association.

The Octomom and her doctor took a tremendous risk by implanting such a large number of embryos. She is extraordinarily lucky that the babies are all healthy. Doctors say giving birth to extreme multiples comes with exceedingly significant risks for the mother and the babies.

ASRM suggests that reproductive endocrinologists transfer two to three embryos for women between the ages of 35 and 37. The transfer of three to four embryos for women 38 to 40 is also noted with these guidelines. However, transfer of a single embryo is the recommendation for women under 35 who have a good chance of achieving a pregnancy. She had already given birth to six other children, so Suleman clearly was physically able to become pregnant and give birth.

The fertility industry needs to work as a team to try and create families with as little risk as possible for the mother and her baby. Women have to remember there are limits to what their bodies can do. Suleman’s experience of healthy octuplets may be more the exception, not the rule. One Minnesota couple that gave birth to sextuplets in 2007, for example, lost five of them after only a 22-week gestation. Risks for multiples include bleeding in the brain, intestinal problems, developmental delays and lifelong learning disabilities.

We at ARR felt it was important to adopt a code of ethics and to promote that code on behalf of our industry, egg donation and surrogacy.  It calls for compensating egg donors and gestational surrogates solely for their time, effort and inconvenience, and complies with all ASRM guidelines.

ASRM has guidelines for a reason and it’s up to us to respect and follow them.

By Robin von Halle

 

I wasn’t sure I was hearing the prospective client right, so I repeated what I thought I’d heard back to her: “You want us to find a surrogate to have your child, not because you can’t have one yourself, but because you’re too busy with your job to undertake a pregnancy yourself?”

 

Indeed, I was hearing her right and was no less astounded at the words coming out of my mouth as I was when they came from hers. This woman wanted a child created from a no muss, no fuss pregnancy. That meant someone else doing all the heavy lifting (and carrying).

 

It’s not the first such request we’ve gotten. We also recently turned down another woman who was looking at surrogacy as a happy alternative to losing her figure. And we recently read in People of former dance-pop star Taylor Dayne’s single parenthood through surrogacy (“Some women love being pregnant, but I didn’t need that.”).

 

When we turn such people down, they inevitably fail to appreciate our philosophy, which we underscore in our code of ethics. It isn’t the money issue, but that our donors and surrogates are a valuable – and valued – commodity. Our agency partners with them to help those who have no other viable options. Not to facilitate vanity pregnancies.

Visit our Web site at www.arr1.com.

About Us

Conception Connections is a blog about alternative paths to family creation. It is maintained by Alternative Reproductive Resources. Contributors include intended parents, egg donors and gestational surrogates in addition to ARR staff. Our goal is to facilitate conversations about trends, issues, current events, technology and personal stories surrounding infertility, egg donation and gestational surrogacy. If you'd like to contribute, please e-mail shodge@hodgemediastrategies.com. We also welcome your comments and suggestions. Note: Comments are moderated and posted on approval.

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