The Daily Mail has published a story under the headlines “Fertility firm offers Cambridge girls £750 for eggs” (newspaper) and “£750 for your eggs: Fertility firm targets Cambridge Uni girls as critics blast company for exploiting ‘financially vulnerable’ students”(website)
The implication from this story is that Altrui has been offering money or using a monetary incentive to entice students into donating their eggs. Altrui totally refutes this allegation and completely stands by its ethical standards and the highest levels of professionalism within a legal framework laid down by the HFEA.
Following discussions with the Daily Mail, on 24th May 2012 they changed the headline to read:
“Fertility firm appeals to Cambridge University girls for egg donations”
They also added the following rider to the article:
“Since publication, we have been asked by Altrui to make clear that they do not entice or induce donors.They do inform donors of their rights under the law to compensation, but again stress this is not a payment. Altrui see their role as offering the opportunity for egg donation in this country under full protection and regulation.”
We would like to make the following points in response; the following bullet points may be attributed as quotes to Alison Bagshawe, Altrui.
In relation to Cambridge University students:
- Altrui helps individual clients find an altruistic egg donor to enable them to start a family. These leaflets were placed by one of our clients as part of their effort to find an altruistic donor.
- This was a personal appeal from them, which was officially approved by the University.
- The leaflets were distributed to mature students and final year students only, not to undergraduates as a whole.
- In order to preserve both the donor’s and the couple’s confidentiality and to provide relevant background information to those considering egg donation Altrui’s contact details are on the flyer.
- At no time was any money mentioned in any of the material (see the leaflet below).
- The implication from the Daily Mail article is that Altrui is a money-making, exploitative business. In reality, we are a small 2-person business, using our expertise to try and help couples in the face of continuing negativity. The NHS will not fund this service, and no charity would be able to raise the money to help these couples proactively. Hence the only other option was to form a small private company and charge for our services
How Altrui works:
- 1 in 6 couples are struggling to start a family. Last year Altrui helped approximately 50 couples find an egg donor.
- We make no offer of any money to any donor at any time, and emphasise throughout that this is an altruistic donation
- We do inform potential donors of their rights under the law. The HFEA has stated that egg donors are entitled to £750 compensation to cover all their expenses, child care cover, loss of earnings etc. This is not payment but compensation set up by the government.
- Altrui do not entice or induce someone to be a donor. Our role is to raise awareness and offer them the opportunity to become an altruistic egg donor in this country under full UK protection and regulation.
- We offer full information, guidance and support for anyone wishing to be a donor but we do not encourage anyone to continue if they are in any way uncertain or doubtful.
- Altrui works under formal agreements with a selected number of Licensed Treatment Centres in UK and everything is done under the full regulations of the HFEA.
Potential egg donors:
- All potential donors are offered counselling by independent qualified counsellors to discuss any concerns and to assess their suitability.
- All potential donors are absolutely free to withdraw at any stage without any pressure.
- Whilst we do not make judgements about the monetary motives of donors, we do not encourage people to do it for money and constantly emphasise the altruistic nature of donation.
- All potential donors are carefully screened medically at the Licensed Treatment Centres before being allowed to proceed. If there are any doubts about their suitability or safety, the doctors will not permit them to proceed.
Who are the egg donors?
- Altrui agrees that no vulnerable groups should ever be exploited, particularly by offering money. This was not done.
- The law states that egg donors should be between the ages of 18 and 35. Whilst approaches from younger donors may need to be handled sensitively and carefully, they are still old enough to be married, raise their own family, vote and generally make important adult decisions. In this case leaflets were only distributed to mature students and final year students.
- In our experience most egg donors are mums, who have already had children and wish to help others also have this experience.
Altrui was started by Alison who is a renowned fertility expert who spent 20 years supporting couples through assisted conception. She provides practical help to couples in the UK who need a donor. She also works hard to raise awareness of the issues surrounding egg donation in an effort to encourage more women to become altruistic donors.
Prior to Altrui being set up in 2010 there was no mechanism in the UK for couples to find altruistic donors. Their only other alternative was to go abroad where they are not protected under UK legislation and regulation.