The legal situation in the UK, unlike in the US and some other
countries, is that the donation of human eggs and sperm is considered
to be an altruistic activity rather than something done for profit.
Donors are only entitled to very small payments as outlined below.
Payments over the limits stated are illegal. Therefore, in the UK,
there is no legal way for a laboratory to purchase human ova, nor for
a woman to advertise her eggs as being available for purchase.
The relevant law is the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990,
which in Section 12(e) says:
12. The following shall be conditions of every licence granted under
(e) that no money or other benefit shall be given or received in
respect of any supply of gametes or embryos unless authorised by
Under the HFE Act, all activities in the UK relating to human in vitro
fertilization, donation and storage of eggs and sperm, and embryo
research are monitored and licensed by the Human Fertilisation and
Embryology Authority (HFEA)
According to the Code of Practice of the HFEA, which you can read at:
Section 4.24 People providing gametes for donation must be paid no
more than £15 for each donation plus reasonable expenses in accordance
with Directions (see guidance in Annex G).
Annex G to the Code of Practice gives specific amounts that may be
legitimately claimed by a donor. These are currently as follows:
Any expenses over £15 will only be paid if a receipts are supplied.
Full travel costs will be reimbursed provided the donor has used a
"reasonable route" and standard class public transport to get to the
centre. Normally, taxi fares will only be repaid if there was no
possibility to use public transport, but the centres are given some
flexibility on this point. A receipt is needed for a taxi fare or
public transport fares that come to more than £15. Car mileage is paid
at 30p per mile, motorcycle mileage at 15.3p per mile, and bicycle
mileage at 5.3p per mile.
It is also possible to get travel expenses for an accompanying person
at the same rates.
If hotel accommodation is required, this has to be arranged and paid
for by the centre.
Subsistence rates are also paid. These are £2.50 per day if the donor
is away from home or work for less than 5 hours, £5 per day for
absences over 5 but not more than 10 hours, and £10 per day for
absences of more than 10 hours.
A centre has flexibility in deciding whether to repay the donor for
minor expenses such as telephone and postal costs, car parking etc.
A donor can claim allowance for financial loss, but only to a maximum
of £50 per day. The donor will have to supply the centre with
detailed evidence of financial loss that was specifically the result
of being a donor. In the same way, childminding expenses can be
claimed, provided that a signed letter is supplied from the person
caring for the child(ren) stating how much s/he was paid for providing
the care. However, it is not possible to claim more than £50 for
financial loss and childminding expenses combined.
The only exception is that some centres have what is known as
"egg-sharing" arrangements. In effect, this is a "payment in kind",
which lets an egg donor herself receive IVF treatment with some of her
own eggs for free or at a reduced cost.
The UK National Gamete Donation Trust was established to promote the
concept of egg and sperm donation and to provide information was
In the US, human eggs can be sold. According to a BBC report from
2001, prices can be as high as $5,000, just for the eggs, while the
total costs involved can reach $20,000. Apparently, there is an
increasing market for UK couples to buy eggs over the Internet and
travel to the US to get them fertilised and implanted.
BBC News, Friday, 16 February, 2001, Internet rush to buy human eggs
I was already aware of the relevant British law and regulatory body,
so searched on the title of the Act and on HFEA and then looked
through the respective web sites.