How much is a human egg worth?
A federal lawsuit brought by two egg donors claim price guidelines adopted by fertility clinics nationwide have artificially suppressed the amount they can get for their eggs, in violation of federal antitrust laws. The women don’t believe fertility clinics should be allowed to set price caps.
The industry groups behind the price guidance — which discourages payments above $10,000 per egg-donation cycle — say caps are needed to prevent coercion and exploitation in the egg-donation process.
But the plaintiffs say the guidelines amount to an illegal conspiracy to set prices in violation of antitrust laws. The conspiracy, they argue in court papers, has deprived women nationwide a free market in which to sell their eggs, and enabled fertility clinics to “reap anticompetitive profits for themselves.”
The technology behind donated human eggs dates to the late 1980s. The fee hovered around $2,000 until the late 1990s, when demand went up and clinics began paying more, said Rene Almeling, a sociology professor at Yale University and author of a 2011 book on the business of egg and sperm donation.
Rising prices for donated eggs prompted concern within the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a nonprofit medical-specialty group focused on reproductive medicine and a defendant in the lawsuit. In 2000, the organization, made up largely of doctors who pay to join, suggested that payments should not go above $5,000 without justification, and said that payments greater than $10,000 went “beyond what is appropriate.”
The price guidelines aren’t mandates. But more than 90% of the nation’s clinics belong to the society, which has adopted the guidelines.
Photo of family who benefited from egg donation not associated with article