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Fertility Organization Removes Price Caps for Donor Eggs

How much is a life worth? Or, more accurately, how much is a donor egg that could begin a life worth? For more than a decade, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine has set the price guidelines for donor eggs, suggesting that donated human eggs should not be sold for more than $5,000 without justification, and that a $10,000 price tag was "beyond what is appropriate."

Unsurprisingly, the women donating or selling their eggs weren't pleased with the price caps, and filed an antitrust lawsuit against ASRM, alleging the suggested prices amounted to illegal price fixing. And this week, ASRM settled the case, and agreed to remove the language from its guidelines.

Antitrust, Pro Free Market

Antitrust laws are designed to ensure fair competition among businesses, and outlaw artificially fixed prices. Normally this arises when several firms in the same industry agree to set prices to either drive out new competitors or gouge customers.

In this case, four women who donated their eggs claimed ASRM's guidelines artificially suppressed the price of their eggs, and was illegal under federal antitrust laws. While the guidelines were not mandatory, 90 percent of the nation's fertility clinics are members of the society, and therefore follow the pricing suggestions.

Less Oocyte Price Oversight

The lawsuit was filed as a class action, and ASRM decided to settle the case before more plaintiffs joined in. As it stands, the group will pay $1.5 million in fees and costs, along with $5,000 to each of the four women. ASRM has also agreed to remove the pricing language from its pricing guidelines:

"ASRM will amend the challenged report concerning donor compensation by removing numbered paragraph 3 (which reads 'Total payments to donors in excess of $5,000 require justification and sums above $10,000 are not appropriate.') and by removing the following language from page 4: 'Although there is no consensus on the precise payment that oocyte donors should receive, at this time sums of $5,000 or more require justification and sums above $10,000 are not appropriate' and 'A recent survey indicates that these sums are in line with the practice of most SART member clinics.'"

How donor eggs will be valued going forward will probably depend on either the fertility clinic setting its prices independently or negotiating with the donor. Both sides expect the settlement to be finalized in the coming weeks.

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