Gamete donation: ethical implications for donors

Hum Fertil (Camb). 1999;2(2):98-101. doi: 10.1080/1464727992000198441.


The interests of gamete donors have only recently been recognized in assisted reproduction; traditionally, the interests of the patients (typically a couple) and the prospective child are paramount. However, assisted reproduction would not be possible without donors, and the simple utilitarian view would be to place their interests first to maximize the availability of the practice. There are several ethical issues on both sides of the donor--recipient equation, some of which are mutual and others are in conflict. For example, the word 'donation' implies there is no payment. Informed consent for donation is essential if the autonomy of the donor is to be respected, and includes information about the results of screening. This is a sensitive issue, especially when pathology is found in a donor who is not being screened for his or her own immediate benefit. Counselling may result in donors refusing to take part, but may also lead to selection by the person recruiting the donors, sometimes as a consequence of examining the motivation of the donor. In this case, the main problem is the ethical basis of the selection process. Other aspects of gamete donation may lead to a conflict of interests between the donor, the recipients and even the prospective child, particularly in terms of anonymity and the information that is made available about the specific circumstances of donation. Implications and support counselling are essential tools in achieving an acceptable balance for all parties involved.