On Bioethics

catholic moral standing on the special ethics of life

Archive for american

Prepare for the worst

The American Medical Association has launched a new journal for a new discipline: disaster medicine, to be called Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness. The inaugural issue features Hurricane Katrina, the Oklahoma City bombing, and “lifeboat ethics”. ~ WSJ health blog, Jun 21

SPERM DONORS UNDERVALUED, SAYS STUDY

The fertility industry discriminates against sperm donors, says US sociologist Rene Almeling. Her article this month in the American Sociological Review describes striking inequities in the market for eggs and sperm which, she says, reflect “gendered stereotypes of selfless motherhood and distant fatherhood”.”Staff at egg agencies constantly thank women and encourage them to think about what a wonderful difference they’re making in the lives of recipients,” Almeling says. “The sperm bank staff is appreciative, but men aren’t told how amazing they are and what a great gift they’re giving. They’re treated more like reproductive service workers. They come in. They clock in and out. Their sample is checked for quality. And they’re only paid when they produce an acceptable sample.”

In the market for American gametes, men are typically paid between US$50 and US$75 per donation, while women are paid around $5,000, along with bonuses and thank-you cards. While it is commonly believed that sperm donors are readily available, in fact, few potential male donors meet the standards required by the clinics, while there is an oversupply of women donors. Almeling is investigating why the laws of supply and demand do not appear to work in the gamete market. ~ News-Medical.Net, May 27 

EGG MARKET GROWS IN US

The average payment in the US for egg donation was US$4,217, according to a recent article in the journal Fertility and Sterility. However, at least one centre told the authors that it paid $15,000 for eggs and stories abound of college students being paid tens of thousands of dollars. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine has set guidelines which stipulate that payments of $5,000 or more “require justification” and that payments over $10,000 are not appropriate.

No one is comfortable with payments for eggs, an invasive and uncomfortable process at best, and painful and dangerous at worst. Little research has been done on the long-term effects of fertility drugs.

Bioethicists also worry whether the allure of dollars to cover college fees or credit card bills might cloud young women’s judgement. “We hear about egg donors being paid enormous amounts of money, $50,000 or $60,000,” Josephine Johnston, of The Hastings Center told the New York Times. “How much is that person actually giving informed consent about the medical procedure and really listening and thinking as it’s being described and its risks are explained?”

The problem is that without compensation, women are unlikely to donate eggs, either for fertility treatment or for research. “I just completed an outreach initiative to 21 institutions across the state that we’ve funded,” Dr Geoffrey Lomax, of the Institute of Medicine, said. “No one has had an egg donated specifically for research.” ~ New York Times, May 15