CNN video: “Egg Donors on the Rise” – click the “Play” button below to watch:
The CNN segment on egg donation (“Egg Donors on the Rise”) was pretty fair, but it left some large components out of the story:
Date: Monday, December 10
Time: 10:00 PM
<Click to watch the CNN video, “Egg Donors on the Rise”
Tune to CNN for Anderson Cooper’s coverage of egg donation, which features Northeast Assisted Fertility Group:
TONIGHT: Dough for eggs! Tough times can mean ‘eggceptional’ measures. See why women are lining up in clinics across the nation to donate their eggs! You won’t believe the going rate. Go to CNN.com to read the rest.
Click here to watch the Anderson Cooper 360 webcast, or tune into the studio webcam. CNN is also welcoming bloggers (or anyone interested in egg donation) to join the Anderson Cooper Live Blog to discuss the segment in real time.
NAFG’s position remains steadfast: we believe that infertility is a disease, for which egg donation is an effective treatment. NAFG egg donors are paid only for their time and effort, and not for the outcome of the egg retrieval. Our recipients, in turn, get the opportunity to have a child. As long as egg donor compensation is not coercive, we believe that all parties will benefit — with minimal medical or financial risk.
Northeast Assisted Fertility Group to be Featured on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” Next Week – Story on Egg Donation
<Click to watch the CNN video, “Egg Donors on the Rise”
Now CNN has picked up on the “surge” in egg donation and they invited Sanford and me to participate in the story. They were especially interested in speaking with an egg donor who was motivated by the current economic downturn. A few of our fabulous donors agreed to participate in the story; they chose one who was sufficiently motivated by money.
Randi Kaye and her team came to our office today and were very professional. Ms. Kaye asked me questions about the relationship between the economy and the number of egg donation applicants we receive, and I agreed that there was an increase. She did veer into sensationalism on occasion:
“Just HOW desperate are these donors?”
“How do you respond to people who say this is baby selling?”
“How do you respond to the term ‘debt donors’?”
[Desperation is not a desirable quality in an egg donor. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine endorses compensation for egg donation as ethical (I handed them the ASRM position paper) and no one claims egg donation is baby selling. I never heard the term “debt donor.” My response to that one was “Huh?”: I trust they will edited that one out, and “debt donor” doesn’t catch on.]
In each case,
Amy Benfer’s piece in Salon yesterday questioned the editorial logic behind the Times publication of Kuczynski’s article, but concluded that it was at least honest in choosing not to mitigate the writer’s vanity, selfishness, and sense of entitlement. She had a slightly more generous attitude toward Kuczynski than many of her readers, as well as Thomas Frank, who wrote in today’s Wall Street Journal (!) that Kuczynski’s surrogacy is the ultimate act of capitalist exploitation, proving the end of our love affair with the rich. As if these were bad things. (And his opinion is surrounded by articles about a $500 billion stimulus package, a car industry bailout, and ads for luxury watches, jewelry, and diamonds.) Really, Tom, you give Kuczynski too much credit.
Melinda Beck’s piece in today’s Wall Street Journal was overall accurate. It even acknowledged the cost for the recipient side.
It also acknowledges the ASRM’s limit on compensation and mentions one donor agency that ignores it, since “the offer brings in donors who might not otherwise be interested.” But that is just the point of the limit; a compensation of $50,000 can be unduly coercive. Furthermore, since any legitimate clinic is a member of the ASRM and therefore pledges to abide by its guidelines, what clinic would agree to work with these donors? These exorbitant fees depend on ethical breaches by more than just the agency, but the doctor as well.
The ASRM’s compensation limit was set in 2000, and reiterated in 2007 but not updated. I think the changing times require an update to $12,000 or more. But until it is official, in our egg donation program we will keep our compensation at $10,000. It is worth it to keep our ethical standards.
In Beyond Compensation: Egg Donor Expenses and Financial Liability (2 of 3), we listed a few reasons why we do not support penalty clauses in egg donor contracts. Here are a few more.
Penalty clauses in egg donor contracts are unduly coercive.
Although unenforceable, they do serve a psychological purpose: coerce the donor into compliance. Reasonable compensation already serves as an incentive; no additional one is needed. Furthermore, by the time the egg donor has come to the contract stage, she has already demonstrated her compliance by showing up to all her screening appointments and following all the instructions of the medical staff, for which she has received no compensation at all.
The ASRM places caps on egg donor compensation in order to avoid undue coercion; threat of severe financial penalty is just as coercive as enticement through exorbitant compensation.
Penalty clauses in egg donor contracts undermine good will.
Contractually threatening to sue your egg donor can only sour the donor’s attitude toward you and the altruistic motives that compelled her to donate eggs in the first place.
An egg donor contract is unlike any other legal document: it is a statement of intentions and good will between two parties in a unique relationship. Recipients should honor and respect their donor, and express gratitude for her efforts to help them conceive. In turn, the egg donor will follow her medical instructions in the hopes that the donation will be successful.
In Beyond Compensation: Egg Donor Expenses and Financial Liability (1 of 3), we claimed to stand against penalty clauses in egg donor contracts. Here is why.
Penalty clauses in egg donor contracts are unfair.
The penalty, if enforced, could well add up to thousands of dollars, which the egg donor very likely does not have. Should she take the chance to make $10K, but in case of an unexpected turn of events, get no money at all but instead have to pay thousands to someone else? It is not a risk any attorney would advise a client to take. The donor is already putting herself at a medical risk; she should not have to put herself at a financial risk, too.
Penalty clauses in this type of “personal services” contract will probably be held unenforceable.
A judge would be hard-pressed to assess a money damage award against a woman who did not allow her donor eggs to be harvested, absent a showing of fraudulent intent.
The penalty for backing out is that the egg donor does not get paid: the deal is that you take a reasonable risk with your money; the donor takes a reasonable risk with her body. It’s not like you are purchasing a piece of property. We have never encountered a case of a recipient recovering expenses and damages from an egg donor who did not fulfill her obligations.
So, we finally get to read the Sunday Magazine article, and they do not credit Sanford Benardo or Northeast Assisted Fertility Group (NAFG) for our input. Oh, well. Nonetheless, I found Kuczynski’s story of infertility and surrogacy heartfelt and brazenly honest. It was also pretty accurate.
I first read the story as a text-only computer print-out; only this morning did I see the accompanying photos, which blatantly expose her provocative subtext: “I am rich, white, urban, and privileged; dare to judge me for paying lower status women to do what I cannot.” Anyone familiar with Kuczynski’s writing would expect this. Readers commenting on the New York Times site, for the most part, declared her a self-indulgent snob; a handful were sympathetic. This was a personal story, not a serious study of surrogacy. It would be unfortunate if the general public judged surrogacy solely through Kuczynski’s lens. Journalistic surrogacy stories are typically sensationalistic; this one is no different in that regard.
A couple of quibbles: I think Kucsynski did “low ball” the figure for the total cost of the surrogacy: although her carrier did not require extra insurance, if you add up the agency fee, carrier fee, legal fees, and medical fees, the figure is closer to $100K than $70K. We find many agencies are not upfront with all the possible costs involved to prevent scaring off prospective clients. (The NAFG site includes a section on program fees which shows a complete itemized breakdown.) Also, we would not advise “skirting” any legal issues and having the embryo transfer take place in New York,
We are eager to view Alex Kuczynski’s “Her Body, My Baby” when it is posted online and comes out on Sunday.
The New York Times contacted the Northeast Assisted Fertility Group regarding our opinions on surrogacy law and procedure, but we did not participate in Kuczynski’s surrogacy. Preview the article on Jezebel.com.
(See our followup post to the Alex Kuczynski article.)