If you have plenty of something which somebody else doesn’t have enough of, and if it doesn’t cost you anything health-wise to give it, should you get paid for it, or just donate it for free? That’s the debate that has been re-ignited in Britain today after it emerged sperm and egg donations have plummeted.
The head of the authority which regulates fertility in the UK says we need to look again at a ban on paying people for sperm and egg donations.
The argument could be applied to that other critical bodily fluid – blood – too, as well as organs.
In last year’s BBC Reith Lectures, the renowned Harvard professor Michael Sandel questioned the ethics of being paid for donating blood products, as happens in the US. In many other countries giving blood is just that – a gift, with no money changing hands.
He points out that on a practical level the United States experiences shortages and more contaminated blood than countries when blood is donated free of charge. The belief is that turning it from an act of altruism into a commercial exchange, takes away the moral obligation people feel towards their fellow human.
In South Carolina, where people get paid to give eggs, donations have gone up 50% since the recession began.
If you need them, do you care how those bodily fluids come to you? Does it make them any less valuable if money changes hands? The political editor of the Guardian argues that it does devalue it in some way. But this blogger says that markets don’t necessarily undermine morals.
If you’ve got plenty of something which comes completely naturally to you, like blood, eggs or sperm, is it right to profit from it?
The WHO set a target in 1997 that all blood donations should be free – so far only 50 countries have signed up.
Would you be more likely to donate blood if you got money for it? Or more likely if you didn’t?
Are sperm and eggs any different to blood in this regard?