For people seeking to create a family using donor eggs or sperm, it is important to understand the laws governing the process; and in particular, to know that, in Australia, donations can only be made on an altruistic basis – in other words, donors cannot be paid for use of their eggs or sperm.
Following Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes investigation Baby Business, broadcast on Sunday 18 September, it appears that confusion exists about this issue and the way in which the law defines payment.
Only reasonable expenses legally allowed for egg or sperm donation
Section 17 of the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2008 makes it an offence for potential parents to provide payment to an egg or sperm donor – or to give any other type of financial inducement to donate eggs or sperm. Reasonable expenses can be reimbursed and these can include, but are not limited to, expenses related to collection, storage, or transport of eggs or sperm. They may also include covering the cost of medical or other expenses clearly relating to the donor treatment. If people are unsure about what constitutes reasonable expenses, they should speak to their treating clinic or seek legal advice.
For prospective parents who are advertising for an egg donor, it is important to be wary of people wanting to be paid an amount more than reasonable expenses. If you have questions or concerns about the behaviour of potential egg or sperm donors you encounter - or feel that you are being pressured to pursue illegal payments - please seek advice from your treating clinic or call VARTA for more information on 03 8601 5250.
The importance of using an identity-release donor
In its expose on egg donation, the 60 Minutes Baby Business segment did not mention another key issue that prospective parents of donor-conceived children should consider: the use of identity-release donors.
In Australia, it is illegal to have donor treatment with anonymous sperm or eggs. Recipient parents can use donors who are unknown to them personally, but these donors must agree, at the time of donation, that their identities will be released to their donor offspring when they reach 18 years. These donations are known as identity-release donations.
Laws enforcing the use of identity-release sperm or eggs have been designed to protect the rights and best interests of children born from donor treatment, ensuring they will have the opportunity to learn about their genetic backgrounds when they become adults (or sooner, depending on state legislation and individual circumstances) if that is what they wish.