Egg donation: is it right for me?

Egg donation has recently sparked controversial debate. 

It takes different forms in the UK, encompassing altruistic donation of eggs, egg sharing and conception with donor eggs. There are varied reasons why people turn to egg donation including a desire to help another have a child, a lack of viable eggs, same-sex family building or a risk of passing on an inherited disease.

However, recent headlines paint a different picture of exploitation and "cash for eggs" that undermines the altruistic framework of egg donation in the UK. Recent media coverage has put the spotlight on fertility treatment practices at UK clinics, costs of treatment and value of 'add-ons', egg-sharing, egg freezing and reporting of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS).

The HFEA has made it clear it will investigate alleged breaches of its code of conduct including egg sharing donation at UK fertility clinics, issuing the following statement on 2 May 2017:

“We have clear rules in our code of practice, enforced by inspectors, that clinics must explain the risks and chance of success of treatment to each patient and donor, and avoid encouraging people to donate eggs and sperm with the promise of financial gain. This investigation highlights potential breaches of our code and our inspectors will be investigating each allegation presented to us. If we find that a clinic is in breach of our code, we will take regulatory action.”

It is a big step to commit to donating or conceiving with donor eggs. It raises a range of financial, emotional, legal and practical issues. It requires understanding and decisions on legal aspects including use and storage of donated eggs, disclosure of information, legal status of yourself (any partner) and donor and your rights and responsibilities if your circumstances or wishes change.

On-demand fertility services and value of specialist fertility and family law advice

Demand for assisted conception and egg donation continues to grow in the UK and around the world. Websites and apps offering on-demand fertility services are changing the pace and face of parenthood and the dynamics of family life. This online and on-demand presence aims to speed up the assisted conception process, offer more choice and save people time and money along the way. New apps and websites make it easier than ever to find a potential egg donor, co-parent, partner or surrogate. However, this is only the first step.

Against this backdrop, the legal and practical implications of donating or conceiving with donor eggs should not be underestimated. But it can be difficult to know what legal and practical issues are relevant in the short, medium and longer term. This can make it hard to make informed decisions. A specialist fertility lawyer should:

  • be 'a good fit' so you feel comfortable and able to freely discuss your situation
  • explain the legal issues, options, implications and outcomes in your case
  • help you make informed decisions
  • give you confidence to progress your family building plans
  • give you peace of mind you've covered all the legal and practical issues
  • help protect you and your family's legal position

Each family building journey is unique and needs tailored legal advice. You can read more about the importance and value of specialist fertility and family law advice here.

Top tips for egg donation

If you are considering egg donation, you should:

  • make use of support groups like the Donor Conception Network
  • talk things through with a trusted friend, partner or family member
  • consider the implications of donating your eggs in the short, medium and longer term
  • think carefully about the requirements you seek in an egg donor
  • investigate egg donor availability and costs
  • make sure you have come to terms with not having a genetically related child
  • invest in specialist fertility law advice

The decision to become a parent is a lifelong commitment. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security. 

If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail or find out more about UK fertility, family and parenting law, contact Louisa Ghevaert by email louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com or by telephone +44 (0)207 7886382.