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Public funds wasted on the rich

25th August 2010

Simon Jenkins writes in The Guardian about the HFEA's plans to pay donors for eggs and sperm in order to increase the number of donations in Britain.

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The HFEA has decided to increase the amount it pays out to donors of eggs and sperm for use by infertile people. At the moment, the amount available to donors is capped at £250 for "expenses and loss of earnings".

As a consequence, there were only 1,150 egg donors and 400 sperm donors in the UK according to the most recent count.

This means many couples are travelling abroad, to countries such as America and Spain, where the people who make the rules are less scared of paying people for donations.

If Britain does not meet the needs of the market, the result will be shortage and inequality - as definitively proved by the welfare state.

Britain's public service, especially the NHS, is filled with money-loathers. This has stopped the health service from "rationing by charges, for fear of identifying cash with wellbeing" (although, strangely, this does not apply to prescriptions).

When I belonged to the HFEA, I constantly put forward the argument that too much regulation would force the IVF market overseas. IVF in Britain would turn into something "exclusive and expensive".

The stringent rules turned fertility doctors into among the best paid of all medics and made fertility clinics hugely rich.

This has happened and, to their credit, the HFEA has realised this. The fear which many of my colleagues had - that women would be exploited for their eggs if money was involved - has resulted in the current situation.

The true "victims" were women who required the eggs or wanted to donate them. Infertile women had to pay massive sums of money in order to receive treatment or go abroad.

This situation will continue as long as "charging, paying and pricing are seen as morally corrupt". Money that should be paid out to aid poorer people will be squandered on richer ones.

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