Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=162901
Story Retrieval Date: 5/24/2013 2:13:44 AM CST
Lynnea Dally, 23, of Austin, Texas, said that her nearly perfect SAT scores received special attention from the director of the donation agency she used, helping her be chosen as an egg donor.
“I had to offer validation that those were my SAT scores,” she said. “I remember this because there wasn’t really anything else that I had to validate.”
Lindsey, 22, a St. Louis native, who asked that her last name be withheld since she is in the process of donating more eggs, said that the donation agency she works with has an exhaustive, nearly 40-page application. “I think it is totally reasonable for what you are getting yourself into,” she said. “You are sort of selling yourself. You want to make yourself as desirable as possible.”
In a new study, Aaron Levine, a bioethicist at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, found that being beautiful and attending a prestigious university may increase the value of a woman’s eggs.
“Most of the advertisements offering compensation of $20,000 or more were found at schools with high average SAT scores,” he said in the study published in the March-April edition of The Hastings Center Report.
Levine found an advertisement that ran in Harvard Crimson, Daily Princetonian and Yale Daily News in April 2006 offered potential donors $35,000. The advertisement sought a truly exceptional woman—one who was attractive, athletic, less than 29 years old, had a GPA of over 3.5 and had an SAT score above 1400, he said.
For each 100-point increase in the average SAT score of the incoming class of a university, compensation offered to egg donors at that school increased $2,350, Levine said.
From a sample of over 300 college newspapers, almost one-quarter of advertisements offered payments in excess of $10,000, a violation of standards set by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, he said. In addition, nearly one-quarter of the advertisements listed specific physical requirements for potential donors—also against the society’s guidelines.
The Current guidelines suggest that compensation over $5,000 requires justification and that any sum above $10,000 is inappropriate. Yet, Levine found many advertisements above $20,000 and one as high as $50,000.
Dr. Edmond Confino, a reproductive specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said that ads promising exorbitant amounts of money could push rates to unreasonable levels. “As a professional group of people, we do not want to raise the price to the point that it won’t be accessible to people,” he said. “If market pressure becomes too high a lot of people won’t be able to afford it.”
Although the quality of the egg is the largely determinant factor in the success of in vitro fertilization, egg quality is correlated with the donor’s age—not intellect or physical characteristics. Confino said the fundamental notion that graduating from an Ivy League school has to do with intelligence is ludicrous.
“There is no scientific evidence linking intelligence or SAT scores with offspring. Even beauty is not guaranteed,” he said.
On the other hand, he saw no problem with potential parents choosing the race or ethnicity of their donors because race is genetically guaranteed.
“The problem is with the notion that a high IQ should be more rewarded,” he said.
Both Dally and Lindsey said they have seen advertisements that promise potential donors upwards of $75,000, but say they are rare. “Sure, a few people may get lucky, but the vast majority are just paid the normal amounts,” said Dally.
In fact, Dally thought she deserved more than the $3,000 she received for her donation.
Lindsey says she felt like she earned every cent of the $6,000 she was paid—a sum that, according to regulations, should have been justified.
“I’m basically getting a grand a day [per day of recovery time] to feel, you know, sort of bad,” said Lindsey. “To me, in my specific financial situation, that’s worth it.”
Although there are donor agencies and private couples that routinely set physical requirements and exceed recommended compensation limits for potential donors, Confino and Levine agreed that it is difficult to enforce the guidelines.
Overregulation could also pose a threat to the fertility industry, they said.
“We have learned from countries that overregulate like England or Israel,” said Confino. In both England and Israel donors do not receive any compensation, which causes a shortage of donations and drives potential parents to other countries in hopes of finding a donor. “How many people will donate just for the goodness of their heart?”
According to Confino, there is also the question of how the guidelines would be enforced.
For now, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, the primary organization of professionals dedicated to assisted reproductive technologies, has some leverage to enforce compliance with the guidelines set by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
According to Dr. James Goldfarb, president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, the society asks members to only use donor agencies that comply with the donor compensation guidelines. Their website has a list of compliant agencies.
He said the society has put renewed efforts into enforcing the recommended limits. The list was audited just last year and, in the process, a noncompliant agency was discovered. “They are going to be taken off of the list,” he said.
Neither Lindsey nor Dally knew if the agency they had worked with was on the list, but neither seemed too concerned.
“If it saves me from not working and lets me study for law school like I need to be doing, then it sounds good to me,” said Lindsey.