On air: Should you get paid for your blood, sperm or eggs?

IVFIf 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?

106 Responses to “On air: Should you get paid for your blood, sperm or eggs?”

  1. July 27, 2009 at 15:03

    Actually, it is somewhat belittling to make one’s body a commercial machines to get money from the donation of blood, sperm and eggs.

    It can be accepted to give free amount of one’s blood to help save lives. The ethic problem rises when there is donation of sperm and eggs resulting in the procreation of children one shall never meet. It’s a form of having oneself dispersed in different families without belonging to them.

    It can be queer if one becomes the biological parent of tens, if not hundreds of children, without having the chance to meet any of them and if one meets them, it is a kind of embarrassment. One has the right to know them but not to keep any of them as they are the property of those who paid for them.

    • 2 Ramesh, India
      July 27, 2009 at 17:18

      Just wondering @ to mae one’s body a commercial machines
      What these professional sports persons or beautiful models in the fashion industry are doing? For some reason, if I can’t feed myself and my family, I don’t see anything wrong in selling my blood or organs ir even sperm.if you object to it, you should be in a position to feed me and my family!! people talking about ethics just don’t know what starvation means.

      • 3 leo goki
        July 28, 2009 at 00:58

        I understand the reasons of those whom sell thier sperm and eggs for money but i don’t agree no amount of poverty should make a person lose his/her common dignity that makes us human,selling these things is equivalent to selling a human being and human beings should not carry a price tag

  2. 4 steve
    July 27, 2009 at 15:06

    From what I recall from property law, you have no ownership rights in your own body, hence you don’t have a “right” to sell parts of it, though I think you should be allowed to within reason. But think of the consequences, desperately poor people selling a kidney to make ends meet. Say if their other kidney one day fails?

    Blood is a bit risky, but so long as they are testing the blood, I think people should be allowed to sell it.

    I don’t think everyone and their mother would be able to sell sperm, given that those who want to utilize it probably want the best genes out there, so being some homeless guy, an alcoholic and drug user with various mental problems, won’t be very much in demand.

    • 5 Ramesh, India
      July 27, 2009 at 17:21

      i would prefer to die with one kidney than dues to starvation! If i sell my kidney, what would be your or anybody’s problem? Can you feed me freely?

  3. 6 patti in cape coral
    July 27, 2009 at 15:20

    How much money are we talking about here? Ideally, things like this should be a gift, but we live in a difficult world and some people are in desperate straits.

    There is a place here in Florida that pays for blood, and pretty much most of the homeless people and alcoholics hang around there, you can see them every time you drive past. I’m not making judgements, that’s just how it is, but I wonder about the quality of the product if alcoholics and drug addicts are making up the majority of the donors.

    • 7 SpermCount
      July 27, 2009 at 18:16

      Until health care is free in the US I won’t be donating anything. If I go to a hospital and WANT one of these eggs, will they give it to me for free? No way, they charge an arm and a leg. In the US medical bills are so high, I can’t imagine the costs a blood transfusion, sperm implant, or eggs. If the doctors are making money off us then why should we be so generous. Most people that donate are not rich, they are broke.

  4. 8 Kelly, from Chicago, IL, USA
    July 27, 2009 at 15:27

    What a difficult question. I think blood could be paid for because it has a clear life-saving ability and there are certain blood types that are rarer than others that I could feasibly see health care paying for.

    However, eggs and sperm seems more touchy to me to sell. I would be interested to know how right-to-lifers feel about it…do they feel that this would be buying/selling human life?

    And of course, the biggest danger of assigning a monetary value to this is that the poor and desperate will be the most likely to sell their body-bits. Is that fair? I would feel more comfortable with a government “draft” that required everyone to give blood once a year. Eggs and sperm? No. I think that if you can’t have kids naturally you should adopt!

  5. 9 Mandie in Cape Coral
    July 27, 2009 at 15:28

    Sperm and eggs belong to the people whose bodies make them. Regardless of the over abundance in a few, not everyone has a right to them. If a person decides to donate, great, but if they sold them, that would be fine as well. The people who want to try and have babies pay the doctors lots, so why not pay the donors. If nature intended for all of us to procreate this discussion wouldnt be on the agenda.

  6. 10 Rob (UK)
    July 27, 2009 at 15:35

    When you give blood for free, you DO get something back. The ability to show off your altruism to your friends. It’s a powerful pressure, worth more than a few pounds. It’s the same as buying a hybrid car or conspicuously recycling.

  7. 11 Roy, Washington DC
    July 27, 2009 at 15:42

    I donated plasma all the time when I was in college. Had it not been for the money, I most likely would not have done it. That said, sperm/eggs raise different issues. Is it morally acceptable to donate these, or is it preferable to adopt?

  8. 12 steve
    July 27, 2009 at 15:53

    @ Rob

    ” The ability to show off your altruism to your friends. It’s a powerful pressure, worth more than a few pounds. It’s the same as buying a hybrid car or conspicuously recycling.”

    Sounds more like insecurity than altruism. You should donate blood for help people, not to show off to your friends.

  9. 13 Gary Paudler
    July 27, 2009 at 15:55

    Why not? Everybody in the chain; doctors, labs, clinics, insurance companies, make lots of money making babies for couples (or singles) whom nature did not equip to do it alone. It’s not your question but it should be asked and examined whether it’s a right and an imperative to procreate especially when there’s a surplus of children who need parents.

    • 14 patti in cape coral
      July 27, 2009 at 17:06

      I agree that everyone else in the equation gets paid for this, and nobody thinks less of them for it, why not the donor, who probably is in more need of the money than anyone else?

  10. 15 J. Augustine - WI USA
    July 27, 2009 at 16:11

    Newshour just read a comment from someone who considered donating eggs, but then decided not to because the invasive surgery and months of hormone treatments were not worth it, implying therefore that others would also not consider money to be an effective incentive.

    I can’t help mentioning that worth is not a constant in this equation, given that all incomes are variable in relation to the constant of supply-side economics. But my initial reaction to the comment was that it assumes that everyone, even where income is not a factor, will make such sensible decisions.

    Do we actually live in a world where people will simply not harm themselves? The list of people who do so is endless, and they will in fact *pay* for their own self destruction. Alcoholism and addiction to the personal automobile as the preferred way of life are simply the first two examples to come to mind.

  11. 16 patrick Odadi
    July 27, 2009 at 16:16

    The days are gone when things were free. Everything costs. food is natural and some people have them in abundance and others do not. How comes other people are suffering because of Food and they have to pay for that food that is so natural. Everything cost money, in my backyard in Africa many things like food water used to be offered free for strangers who may wish to pass by your house at night or anytime is nolonger the case people have to pay for water which was unthinkable for somebody to pay for.
    The body fluids like sperms and blood have to be paid that sperms and blood belongs to somebody and in so much it belongs to smebody it must be paid. sex is so natural why it is that it being sold in the streets and brothel

  12. 17 Anthony
    July 27, 2009 at 16:16

    It just depends on the person. If they think they should and want to ask for it, more power to them. Just like when stars use their name for things. If it’s for a movie, then of course they want to get paid, but if it’s for charity then most will do it for free.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  13. 18 Helen
    July 27, 2009 at 16:19

    Money should not be in the equation.And because you can only get a”created baby”if you can pay for the procedure,I don’t believe this is a healthy phenomenon,either.What happened to making the best of what you’ve got?I can understand fixing a health condition which impairs your ability to function.But with all the children who suffer,I believe people who desire to care for a child would be better serving as caregivers and adoptive parents.But since people are so self-centered and immature I don’t expect the”I want and nothing will stop me from getting it” attitude will ever go away or be over-ruled by public opinion or a rational medical community.

  14. July 27, 2009 at 16:19

    One needs to be magnanimous especially when one can contribute to the happiness of others. There are so many couples who would love to have children but are unlucky. So the donors should have a heart. The profit motive should not always govern one’s actions. One should have lofty ideals and be humane at all times.

  15. 20 deryck/trinidad
    July 27, 2009 at 16:20

    I’ve donated blood free a few times to friends and people who I don’t know but were in need. That’s me but…

    I also see nothing wrong with anyone selling a bodily product for profit. They have the right, it’s their bodies and they shouldn’t care what the crowd says.

  16. 21 Bert
    July 27, 2009 at 16:30

    The question is fairly meaningless. If whatever it is belongs to a person, and clearly blood, sperm, and body organs do, then it is up to that person to decide whether the item should be donated free of charge or not. Only that individual should decide.

    What next? You have two kidneys, so you are ethically compelled to give one away for free?

    Specifically on sperm or eggs, I don’t think the earth needs to be populated more enthusiastically. If nature, or even circumstance, determines that an individual cannot have a child naturally, I see absolutely no complelling excuse why another individual should be coerced into changing that situation free of charge.

  17. July 27, 2009 at 16:39

    we can donate by blood that’s fine but when it comes to sperm , eggs it looks a little bit silly for some ppl to resort to hospitals to found out ppl standing there waiting to donate by sperm and eggs imagine with me when we go to hospitals and we stand there waiting for our turns to donate by sperm & eggs today the bbc have created a joke not debate but i got the hint some ppl got to halt asking for things that it’s not posible to get it ( my gosh sperm & eggs are mine i wont share it with no one )

  18. 23 Tom D Ford
    July 27, 2009 at 16:40

    Hmm, didn’t Bill S have something to say about this in his great play “The Merchant Of Venice”? Something to do with “a pound of flesh, but no blood” or similar words? Selling parts of a human body is a very old problem.

  19. 24 steve/oregon
    July 27, 2009 at 16:40

    no one! will get any of my bodily fluids if I am not getting any benifit from it. The only time I have ever given blood for free, is when i was in the service, because i value other soldiers.
    My sperm will cost someone. If you need my blood to stay alive…. well that means it must have some sort of value. more than likely quite a bit if your life depends on it.

  20. July 27, 2009 at 16:45

    Personally, I wouldn’t recommend to get paid for sperm or eggs becouse its ethical issue and moral matters. the best way to do it would through donation if there is a need for it. I don’t think donating sperm is more of intresting issue rather than blood. When we donate blood we are saving lives than an egg or sperm. Any way I agree on donating blood rather than focussing on Selling sperms and eggs.


  21. 26 Denise in Chicago
    July 27, 2009 at 16:45

    Yes, you should be paid for body donations. The person who supplies eggs, sperm or blood deserves to be compensated. While we’re discussing this, what about selling organs? I also believe this is acceptable since the individual donating an organ accepts a substantial health risk.

  22. 27 Tom D Ford
    July 27, 2009 at 16:50

    I don’t know if it is still happening but for a long time The King of Saudi Arabia, who had heart problems, kept a live human being at his side wherever he traveled as a heart “donor”. That is, if the Saudi Kings’ heart gave out, the “donors” heart would be taken out of a living human being and transplanted into the King, leaving the “donor” to die.

    We buy Oil from those people, and provide them with their military arms, aircraft, and all the rest of their military stuff.

    It seems that Morality is not allowed to intrude in business.

  23. 28 Jennifer
    July 27, 2009 at 16:54

    I’ve donated blood several times but I no longer can because I have anemia. The last time I did; the nurse had to use a thing (not sure the term for it) to make it pump through the tube. So, I just opt out now. I see giving blood as a wonderful thing that helps save lives. But, it’s not for rewards!

    Now, for sperm/eggs; I think these are not things that should be for sale. My cousin was inseminated because she when she was younger she was an athlete and did not have a regular period/ovulation since being a teenager. Her and her husband paid alot and they are grateful to have their son. He’s a beautiful baby! However, I think some things are just not for sale. That includes my eggs.

  24. 29 John in Salem
    July 27, 2009 at 16:55

    Over the years I’ve sold plasma to clinics and been grateful for the money that allowed me to eat, and I have also donated to the Red Cross when there have been shortages or emergencies.
    I have no problem with selling plasma. When the Red Cross discovers they have distributed tainted blood they issue an “oops!”, do a recall and go on about their business, but private companies and clinics can be sued for that so they go the extra mile in testing and screening their products. You don’t see junkies or speed freaks or winos in these places – everyone is screened every time they go in. The “donors” are working people of all stripes trying to make a little extra income to feed their kids or pay the electric bill.
    Likewise I would have no problem selling sperm (if I hadn’t had a vasectomy) or eggs were I a woman.
    It’s MY body and YOUR morals have no relevance to what I do with it.

  25. 30 Justin from Iowa
    July 27, 2009 at 16:55

    Hum, a couple things:
    Do you get CHARGED for blood, etc in the hospital when you need it? If you are getting charged for its use, then you durned well better be PAID for its production.
    Also, in the US, we get paid a small amount for donating stuff like blood plasma, if I recall correctly. This is an incentive for people who would not otherwise simply donate it. Which would you rather – high ideals and not having enough, or paying a small amount and having sufficient quantities.

    • 31 RightPaddock
      July 27, 2009 at 20:15

      @Justin from Iowa – If I need a transfusion after an accident or surgery I won’t have to pay a red cent. So it’s not unreasonable that I shouldn’t get paid for donating it.

      The cost of collection, processing, distribution and transfusion is borne by our tax funded universal health care system. I suspect a similar situation prevails in most other OECD countries, the stand-out exception being the USA

      However I think IVF procedures are only partially subsidised by our universal health care system, assuming the recipient has to pay for the eggs and or sperm they consume, then there’s a case for saying that the people who provides the eggs and sperm ought to be able to charge for them.

      When it comes to sperm donations the money seem to be irrelevant compared to other factors. The UK and AUS now have laws mandating that children created using “contributed” sperm have the right to know the contributors identity, and the right to attempt to establish contact with the that person. These laws have seen the number of sperm donors nosedive dramatically.

  26. 32 Ramesh, India
    July 27, 2009 at 17:12

    In India, Spineless Men take dowry from women(‘s family) seeking an alliance with them. Selling blood or organs is much better and honourable than this!!

  27. 33 Tony from Singapura
    July 27, 2009 at 17:31

    The problem with being paid for fluids and spare parts is that there will be a temptation for very poor or heavilly indebted poeple to start selling themslves out, this to their own (or their families) detriment in the long term.

    I think that unless it is voluntary it shouldnt happen. reimbersment of expenses would be OK though I see that as different.

  28. 34 Tony from Singapura
    July 27, 2009 at 17:35

    The next thing would be selling stem cells. A couple could make a tidy living producing a few embryo’s every year and selling to the local stem cell facility.

    Gastly idea, but thats wheer selling fluids and parts could lead us.

  29. July 27, 2009 at 17:38

    By donating spem and eggs you are creating a child who will possibly never know it real parents!
    Would you want to be born into a world where your parents will probably lie to you by telling the son/daughter that I’m your Dad/Mum, but clearly you’re not!
    Not a good atart in life, is it !?
    No, the best thing you can do if you can’t your own child is to give an orphaned child a good home. But please don’t ever think by having donated spem and eggs that the child is yours!
    You’ll just be the guardian, and should therefore go through some sort of adoption process.
    Too many time I have read articals about the parents needs, but the child really does need to know who it’s biological parients are!

  30. 36 Steve in Boston
    July 27, 2009 at 17:39

    I fail to see the difference between selling body fluids, and prostitution. In either case the “donor” is being compensated for use of his or her physical body.

    Frankly, I see no problem with allowing compensation for either. Leave it up to the “donor” whether to charge or not, and regulate both for health and safety standards.

    Heck, we’re in a world-wide recession. Should we really be discouraging people from earning some honest money?

  31. July 27, 2009 at 17:42

    By donating sperm and eggs you are creating a child who will possibly never know it real parents!
    Would you want to be born into a world where your parents will probably lie to you by telling the son/daughter that I’m your Dad/Mum, but clearly you’re not!
    Not a good start in life, is it !?
    No, the best thing you can do if you can’t your own child is to give an orphaned child a good home. But please don’t ever think by having donated spem and eggs that the child is yours!
    You’ll just be the guardian, and should therefore go through some sort of adoption process.
    Too many time I have read articals about the parents needs, but the child really does need to know who it’s biological parients are!

  32. 38 nora
    July 27, 2009 at 17:45

    Putting sperm and egg donation on the same plain is ludicrous. Months of shots and painful, invasive needles to donate eggs are not the same as taking a sexy magazine into the loo and “donating” copious swimmers. Men and women experience vastly different levels of personal risk. Paying for time, pain and suffering seems more than fair.

    As for homeless donating blood or other fluids, I would ask those that were creeped out by the poor being compensated, why you assume homelessness would indicate bad genes rather than a misfortune that could befall anyone? Is lack of eggs in a rich woman a defect you would disparage too, or is success all about money and land?

  33. 39 steve
    July 27, 2009 at 18:02

    No, it’s not morally wrong to expect payment for saving someone’s lives. If you are knocked unconscious, and a doctor saves your life, even outside of hospital, they are entitled to compensation due to an implied in fact promise. A good samaritan isn’t entitled to that kind of payment, but if doctors can charge for helping people who didn’t ask for help, why can’t people be paid for the loss of their bodily fluids?

  34. 40 jamily5
    July 27, 2009 at 18:04

    Do you find it odd that in the USA blood donations are not paid for, but in some circumstances plasma donations are paid for.
    That does give people an incentive to donate.
    I have given blood for quite a while and need no money to do so.
    Are we prepared for what might happen, if we change the incentive. As of now, the incentive to donate blood, sperm and eggs is an ultruistic one. If we offer money, who will be donating and if they donate for money, what type of person is actually donating? Someone who wants to make money might go to three different clinics to donate and is there genetic testing of the sperm and egg to find out what genes are present? We must realize that people will try to manipulate the system to get the most money for their contribution. Are we ready for that type of situation? Maybe a good incentive for people is to lower their health care expenses if they have given blood or donated sperm&/or egg. Maybe you should get a lower insurance premium or something if you are a blood donor. I would feel more comfortable with that than cold hard cash.

  35. 41 Anthony
    July 27, 2009 at 18:09

    If you can patent life saving drugs in the U.S. so that people need to pay 3 to 5 times the amount than in other countries generic drugs, then why not charge people for a “want” rather than a “need”?

    As far as blood, you need to go out of your way, and will be effected for a day, so why shouldn’t you get paid in some way for it? I can’t, but would if I could, but I have no problem with people asking for some kind of payment for it.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

    • 42 RightPaddock
      July 27, 2009 at 19:30

      @Anthony, LA, CA – you may not realise that in some places we pay a lot less than you do for the EXACTLY the same drugs – same pharma, same proprietary name, often made made in the same factory.

      The difference is probably that our regulatory agencies have the responsibility and instruments to negotiate with the global pharma’s for a common price for the entire population. And they foster the use of low cost generics once a drug is out of patent; n.b. IPR rules are common, mandated by the AUS-USA FTA.

      Before I retired I donated blood at my workplace in company time. It only took 45 minutes, after which I went back to work. So the time was actually donated by my employer, all I donated was the blood. The existence of such schemes fosters free donation, perhaps the lack of such schemes explains why many US citizens are not adverse to selling their stuff, whereas others, like me, find the idea abhorrent. It’s incongruous to me that similar schemes don’t operate in the US, given its great tradition of philanthropy. But our employers aren’t expected to pay for our health insurance either, so there’s probably a different dynamic happening too.

  36. 43 Rhoda
    July 27, 2009 at 18:12

    It is true that if a family member or someone close to me needed a part of my body to survive, I would probably give it to them. There is a personal cost to me but I will do it because I love them. However, when I go to work everyday, I use my intellect which is a very integral part of me for my company and I get paid for it and people I have never met profit from it. As long as it is my choice to give my body parts to someone I don’t know or have any affinity for, why shouldn’t I get paid?

  37. 44 Anthony
    July 27, 2009 at 18:12

    The giving of organs when someone is dead it TOTALLY different. You can’t, in any situation, compare the 2.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  38. 45 steve
    July 27, 2009 at 18:14

    I recall in the days after 9/11, Hospitals in NY were begging for blood donations. When I went to a hospital to donate, there was such a large line, that they told people to come back later. These people didn’t need to be paid to donate. I went back to class and then returned to donate later.

  39. 46 Chintan in Houston
    July 27, 2009 at 18:14

    Money for sperm, eggs, blood etc. is perfectly fine, but we should definitely consider the fact that when the items that are now voluntary donations will be changed in people that are being rewarded for doing so it might lead to exploitation of the most vulnerable in third world countries like it is for organs like kidney, liver etc.
    It would be tough to regulate with more victims then those who already are in need for these things thus adding to the misery.

  40. 47 Bailey
    July 27, 2009 at 18:16

    We live in a capitalistic society. People expect to, in some way, benefit from services rendered or products provided. The majority of the doctors in the world expect to be compensated for the services they provide to ensure the good health of others. I don’t believe they should be demonized because of this; neither should those who’s reason for donating blood or organs is monetary compensation.

    As for the payment of eggs and sperm, I think the location the deal takes place in has to do with how morally “correct” it is. Those in western,or developed countries, seem to be looking for a quick way to make money. While those in developing countries, such as India, are offered the opportunity to greatly increase the standard of living for their family and themselves. Who are we to deny them the chance to lift themselves out of poverty, when their means are limited?

  41. 48 Scott [M]
    July 27, 2009 at 18:16

    There is a difference between blood and sperm/eggs that should be pointed out. The donation of blood can save lives! Sperm and eggs are not a necessity—they don’t save lives, they perhaps create new life for people who can’t otherwise have children. They are cosmetic in comparison to blood donations. People don’t need to have children, but they perhaps need a blood transfusion to live.

    I think this distinction is important when discussing this topic.

  42. 49 Yvette
    July 27, 2009 at 18:17

    Wondering if these young women realize that the eggs they are donating are the possible children THEY won’t be able to have later in life when they decide the time has come for their own children. Women are born with all the eggs they will have, to donate their young, viable eggs to somebody else will deplete their ability to have children in the future. Also the actual process of “harvesting” the eggs can lead to ostroprosis, and possible early menopause.

    Although, I understand the need for parents wanting children, but these young women need to consider the long term effects on their life.

  43. 50 Erika
    July 27, 2009 at 18:17

    I’d like to point out that blood and eggs are in no way equivalent in the area of need. Having a blood transfusion will save your life but having a baby is a decision, a choice. Having a baby through traditional means is not a right. If these people have so much money, why are they not adopting the thousands of children who already exist and are in need? Fertility science is a business about money so why should the women donating their eggs not expect to be compensated in return for their extraordinary difficulties?

  44. 51 Ron
    July 27, 2009 at 18:18

    I find it interesting that donated blood is eventually sold to the end recipient. How does everyone feel about that?

    Also, once ova or sperm are “donated” for money, it becomes a sale. Why not call it what it is: SELLING eggs or sperm or blood, etc?

  45. 52 Bailey
    July 27, 2009 at 18:19


    The decision to donate sperm and eggs is not an altruistic one in the U.S. In most cases there is monetary compensation.

  46. 54 steve
    July 27, 2009 at 18:19

    Wow, you can even fit in america bashing into a show about eggs, sperm, and blood. Hats of to that man. I didn’t expect this to happen!

    • 55 Ron
      July 27, 2009 at 18:33

      I totally agree with steve here. There are so many selfless people in the USA that donate their blood whenever the Red Cross comes around. I also get really tired of the America bashing that goes on around the world!

  47. 56 Anthony
    July 27, 2009 at 18:19

    Hmmmmm, a bit Anti-American are we. That’s quite a generalization.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  48. 57 Matt (USA)
    July 27, 2009 at 18:20

    My concern with this topic is short, and relatively simply. I worry that making all bodily material a payed commodity will eliminate the possibility to donate freely. There is confidence now that the blood you give will not benefit anyone except the person who is helped by the blood. If there is a legal value to that blood, giving a part of yourself freely would still be possible, but would almost be discouraged.

  49. 58 Mike in Seattle
    July 27, 2009 at 18:21

    I would appreciate if your guest would stop stereotyping Americans. We’re not all “interested in controlling the seas and the world about us”, and I find the comment lazy and uninformed.

  50. 59 KC, Uk
    July 27, 2009 at 18:22

    If we start asking people to pay for donating blood, organs, etc.., some people will start making a buisness out of it. In some parts of Africa where there is witchcraft, it’s a solid market. Dead people’s remains are sold to those who demand it. On the other hand I can understand why people would want to sell their blood, or sprem or eggs, given the level of poverty in the world and the economic crisis. It all comes down to a matter of ethics!

  51. 60 Abby
    July 27, 2009 at 18:23

    This debate is framed in a misleading black and white way. While donating blood (or sperm) is not a physically demanding process, donating eggs is. It involves weeks of injections and a certain amount of risk in the egg retrieval. The compensation women receive is not so much when you consider the risk and physical work involved, let alone the emotional weight of sending your gametes out there into the world. When we were looking for an egg doner, I was impressed by the altruism of many of the women involved. They seemed to be truly interested in helping a family have a baby –otherwise why do it?

    I love my social services job and the people I help while I’m doing it, but it would be hard for me to do it on a completely volunteer basis. Most people would have no trouble accepting that the fact that I’m paid to do my work does not mean that I am “just doing it for the money”, for purely commercial reasons. Why can’t we accept that women who donate their eggs can be doing so for altruistic reasons *and* for the fee that they receive as well?

  52. 61 Helen
    July 27, 2009 at 18:25

    That altruistic donations of eggs went up forty percent says little.Forty percent of one hundred people means forty more people.A family member might be persuaded or pressured to donate sperm or eggs .And who is to say person X hasn’t paid person Y to go and”altruistically” donate.Sorry but “the facts”may be fictional in truth.

  53. 62 steve
    July 27, 2009 at 18:26

    Wow, that guest who donated a kidney to her boyfriend. Wow. She’s the ultimate girlfriend ever. Talk about actions speaking louder than words.

  54. 63 Len Steinbach
    July 27, 2009 at 18:27

    It seems that the donor is the only one who is expected to be (or hoped to be) altruistic. Are the doctors who are extracting or implanting the eggs donating their services? Are they not, for the most part, profiting financially from what they do? Perhaps if there were some end-to-end altruistic path, the value judgment against donation for pay, i.e. selling eggs or organs) would be more valid and appropriate.

  55. July 27, 2009 at 18:27

    It’s no longer for certain that a woman is born with all the eggs she’ll ever have.

  56. 65 RightPaddock
    July 27, 2009 at 18:30

    You cannot posit the collection of blood and gametes as being of equal status. Without a reliable uncontaminated blood supply people die. No one ever died because a woman couldn’t get pregnant.by having sexual intercourse with a male partner of choice.

    I we allow people to profit via selling their “bodily fluids”, then why shouldn’t we allow people to profit from selling the bodily parts of recently dead relatives, assuming prior consent was granted by the dead relative.

    There’s far too much emphasis on the so called right to have a child, and almost none on the obligation to raise children to become responsible adults capable of leading fulfilling lives.

    Each year about 10 million children die – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12842379. We should be doing more to save them, rather than wasting money to create more children. It’s a pity that more people don’t take their lead from Madonna.

  57. 66 Julia in Portland
    July 27, 2009 at 18:34


    Do you think there is an argument for payment when minorities who have been economically marginalized may be less likely to be able to financially afford the time from work, etc to do a donation?

    When limited donations of compatible organs for minorities are available, doesn’t it bode that a financial support may be necessary?

  58. 67 steve
    July 27, 2009 at 18:37

    I’m curious,j your guest said there is a shortage of organs here in the US, and many die while waiting for organs. The point is, someone needs to die to be able to donate many vital organs other than a kidney. So someone has to come to a premature death to donate say a liver. Say if cars are made so safe, that people no longer get seriously injured in car wrecks, where would organs come from? Is there a moral issue with hoping someone else dies so that you can live?

  59. 68 Tara Ballance, Montreal
    July 27, 2009 at 18:37

    I have donated blood many times. Living in Canada, I am not paid for my blood donation (unless you count a cup of coffee and a tea biscuit as remuneration). When I needed a blood transfusion to save my life, the blood was there, thanks to donors who, like me, gave without payment.

    I think it’s both dangerous and immoral to pay blood donors. Payment will generally attract those donors who are desperate for money. Some may need it to feed their children, and it’s immoral that society will tolerate such a situation.

    Others may need it to feed their drug habit, and it’s dangerous that society will tolerate donations from people whose risky behaviours and general health might make their blood harmful to the intended recipient.

    Blood donations save lives. Transfusing blood is a medical procedure that is performed because it is necessary. It’s not optional. As I told people after my transfusions, “life is a gift; pass it on.”

    Sperm and eggs don’t save lives; they cause them. IVF is a medical procedure that is performed by choice. Whether sperm & eggs are donated or sold is immaterial.

  60. 69 Ted Eberhard
    July 27, 2009 at 18:41

    Should we even be donating eggs and sperm? We have a serious world population problem. We do not even have the resources to provide for the current population. This should be regulated but why shouldn’t we get paid for it. If some people want to give it for free great.

  61. 70 Anthony
    July 27, 2009 at 18:41

    So, then why doesn’t these people help build houses for the poor for free? Or how about cook for the poor for free? How about they let the homeless live in their garage and let them bath themselves, it won’t really cost you anything? It’s the same thing.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  62. 72 Pepper
    July 27, 2009 at 18:41

    Ethics notwithstanding, despite wanting to give out of sheer altruism, the reality is there are costs associated with donating eggs, organs, etc. In addition to the risks associated with surgery—relative to donating organs—people are giving a signifcant amount of time. I’m sure many of us would like to be uber generous, but we all do many of the things we do in order to make a living. Otherwise, food should be free; basic necessities should be free. For that matter, anything anyone makes or produces should essentially be given away. We all know, however, that this is not reality.

    Pepper Partin
    Indianapolis, IN
    United States

  63. 73 SpermCount
    July 27, 2009 at 18:43

    Lorren on the phone now —-> Did you have to pay for your blood transfusion? If so who got that money?

  64. 74 Clayton Ingram
    July 27, 2009 at 18:44

    As a former employee of a US organ recovery group I can tell you that (at least in the case of organ donation) the ONLY person who is not well compensated is the donor family. (The surgeons, recovery team, and the recipient all garner tangible benefits.) Additionally, they are often left with large medical, legal and funeral bills. Prehaps rather than a direct payment, a refundable tax credit would be appropriate. Altruism is wonderful but I think compensation is not only the more fair way to go, but would increase donation–the last contribution the deceased can make to the family well being.

    As for blood donors, during my time the Red Cross sold donated blood to hospitals for $500 per unit. Many hospitals would negotiate for blood from other sources. Certainly it is needed and lifesaving, but shouldn’t the source of the blood be as well compensated as the broker?

  65. 75 C Fry
    July 27, 2009 at 18:50

    People are paid money to test pharmaceutical drugs, which will one day save lives. Or paid in psychological tests. How is this different?

  66. 76 James
    July 27, 2009 at 18:51

    I fail to see how raising awareness is mutually exclusive from having markets for these materials. The assumption that there would be increased risk if there was a market is also absurd. As it is, the government is charged with minimizing the risk of that transaction. But why should they? If in a market someone wants to sell something and someone else is willing to buy it it’s on them to ensure that it’s safe. This negates any possibility of increased risk from people trying to make money of it. Also, if they tried to sell tainted goods they would go out of business.

    It also doesn’t make sense that people wouldn’t be able to contract for their eyes after they’re dead. It would be as simple as putting conditions on that contract, such as, the eyes have to be in such condition or I won’t pay for them. The money wouldn’t have to go to the dead person before they die. It could go to anyone in the contract, such the families of the person doing the donation.

    So called altruism and the market are not in conflict. If someone wants to donate something that other people sell whose stopping them? The market would increase the utilization of these materials, by rewarding people who are willing to provide them to others. It is the forced (or implied) altruism that generates waste for these materials.

  67. 77 Tom D Ford
    July 27, 2009 at 18:52


    Ironically some people actually pay to be able to donate their sperm, in the business called prostitution.

  68. 78 Morf
    July 27, 2009 at 18:53

    I donate plateletes when I can schedule it. I am a universal donor and, according to my local blood bank, have saved the lives of many babies undergoing open heart surgery.

    It is a long and fairly complicated process which I would not be willing to undergo for money. For a baby I would…..

  69. 79 Sylvia Hysong
    July 27, 2009 at 18:54

    One of the issues with the blood supply is that it gets done through blood drives and blood centers. What if we provided the opportunity to donate whenever a patient has bloodwork done? Obviously, some would not be eligible; but many patients a year go have their annual physical, and they get blood drawn to check a host of different lab values (e.g., cholesterol, blood cell count, etc.). Why not simply (with the patient’s consent, of course), collect a little extra at this time and send it to the blood bank?

  70. 80 Don from Indianapolis
    July 27, 2009 at 18:55

    Beyond differences between cultures on donation of blood or organs, there is a generational issue in the US. For blood banks, it has been the WW2 generation that has supported these centers for nearly 60 years. There still has to be another generation to accept responsibility.

    Personally, I have donated over 100 pints over the past 50 years. That’s half of what Lauren used.

  71. 81 Bert
    July 27, 2009 at 18:57

    Ethics? Why is it not ethical for a person to be compensated for, say, a kidney, but it is perfectly ethical for the doctor and hospital to be compensated for the operation?

    Perhaps the case is less clear cut when the donation is something that regenerates itself, like blood or sperm, however the “ethics” of this baffles me. It looks to me like everyone is benfitting very directly from the donation, in terms of their own health, or their own wish for a baby, or their own incomes for doctors and hospitals, but somehow the value of this food chain cannot reach the original donor?

    Not to say people CANNOT donate free of charge, of course. Even lawyers and doctors can work pro bono, if it suits them.

  72. 82 Wolfgang Sailler
    July 27, 2009 at 18:58

    Before someone gets all excited: My driver’s license is marked ‘Donor’ and I have given blood. But, I would not donate any organs while alive and I question the practice in general for a variety of reasons. I am also opposed to fertility treatment with other peoples DNA. There is probably a reason why some people can’t have children. The most obvious one is so the already numerous orphans could be adopted. Paying for eggs, or organs will always have questionable tactics and consequences, one being that poor people are going to be at the short end of the trade.

  73. 83 Parag
    July 27, 2009 at 19:01

    In the market-based systems, people are always allowed to make money on all kinds of life-saving commodities – food, water, medicines, surgeries, etc.
    We as a society allow agro business, pharmaceutical companies to make a huge amount of money by selling essentials of life. We don’t tell them to be altruistic and just donate their products for fellow human beings. Big business executives rob ordinary people, rob their own companies by excessive compensation and bonus until the companies are out of money and then they would rob tax payer for bailouts.
    At no point did we question that they should not be allowed to make money on life-saving commodities.
    But, when a little man or a little woman tries to make a little money from his/her own organs/blood, we want to say: “Be a good human. Save life of your fellow human and donate for free. It does not matter that you have to pay huge sums on food, drugs and doctor’s services”!!
    Is that justice?

  74. 84 Tom K in Mpls
    July 27, 2009 at 19:01

    I am a capitalist that donates blood. As for the blood, it’s a bit of give and get. Blood is paid for here in the US by some companies. It is common to find them located near universities. As for sperm and eggs, if the supply is low, there is an obvious need. To see that the need is filled, you need money. What is the alternative? Legally mandated donations? Ya right.

  75. 85 Tiffany (from North Carolina)
    July 27, 2009 at 19:01

    Great conversation. I would love to think that in an ideal world people would donate all sorts of things out of the goodness of their hearts, but we don’t live in an ideal world. For every bone marrow drive to help find a match for a coveted community member, there is a child suffering in silence who doesn’t have the priviledge of that sort of community outreach. I say, if we have to pay someone to save lives then so be it. When comes down to it, this shouldn’t be an argument about morals, it is an argument about supply and demand- and right now the demand is too high.

  76. 86 DhananJAYa Arekere
    July 27, 2009 at 19:10

    We need to explore are all possible options to increase organ donations. A market for organs has its place, but has sever its limitations. Religion is a huge factor hindering more ppl from becoming donors. For instance, a few years ago Texas decided to take the donor s. Religion (superstition) and its ramifications was hardly addressed during the show. The show did a great job on raising awareness but fell short on suggesting a cpl of concerete solutions. Great show as usual, keep up the good work.

  77. 87 Kevin Marshall
    July 27, 2009 at 19:12

    I don’t care about being paid, just a chance to give would be nice! As a Brit living in the US I can’t give blood because I might have BCSE! How ridiculous & close minded that is considering the shortages being discussed.

  78. July 27, 2009 at 19:15

    With eggs I am not sure what do this people do. But in Africa we dont have blood bank and its better for blood donatio than eggs.

  79. July 27, 2009 at 19:43

    A donation can no longer be called a ‘donation’ if it’s payed for ! The new denomination would be ‘Business’. like in every business on this planet, there are traffic channels; …from there, we can only imagine the consequences of selling: blood, sperm, eggs, organs …or even whole humans cadavers. Life is a gift to everyone of us, and should always be a gift for evryone; Life cannot become a business.

  80. July 27, 2009 at 19:50

    As the daughter of an anonymous sperm donor, who has thought a lot about these issues, I object to the way that you are conflating two different things with the phrasing of the question on your show tonight (I am listening from Nairobi). Blood is not the same as sperm; only the latter creates a new human, only the latter involves handing over half your DNA to a new person. It is this conflation of blood donation and sperm donation that has served the infertility industry’s interest in recruiting anonymous gamete donors so well for decades. It feeds the fallacy that giving sperm (or eggs) is the same as blood, when in reality these are very different things. Please do not do those of us who are living as genetic orphans this dis-service by conflating blood donors with the “donations” of our biological mothers and fathers.

  81. July 27, 2009 at 19:57

    What about the kids born out of these cases who probably would want to meet their biological parents

  82. 92 Thomas Murray
    July 27, 2009 at 20:02

    In the event that no one has yet to report this, in the US, blood and human ova are commodities — blood through a “Plasma Center,” and eggs usually through private clinics.

    Unlike body parts, like kidneys, blood and eggs are replentishable. Though, “Plasma Banks,” typically found on the periphery of universities, usually attract less than premium candidates for donation, as half of them have a drug, alcohol and sexually diverse history — and those are only the students.

    The genius sperm clinics you hear about here in America — given that the process doesn’t involve invasive surgery — is probably an urban myth. Though half our TV sit coms would go missing a substantial source of humor without them.

    I donated blood through the Red Cross once for a relative’s possible operation. But the Red Cross doesn’t pay for it; and in so forfending, delivers a much more reliable (say, cleaner) product.

    –Louisville, Kentucky, US.

  83. 93 tipsylife
    July 27, 2009 at 20:03

    I think these cases are all funny even if you get paid for whatever donation you make. Are we not going too far. Its now kidneys, sperms, hearts and so on. One section of society gives out and then get punished through exhorbitant medical bills. For all of you who advocate this commercialism, what advice would you give to people in Tanzania, whose albino society is getting decimated by the moneyed?

    Promotion of these enterprises make feel that humanity is really doomed. On the other hand, after this publicity we might expect the sums paid for these survices to come down. But we should also think about those who cannot afford. What if things go out of hand and you have yourself taken advantage of by forcibly getting robbed of these things and left dead?

  84. 94 James Turner
    July 27, 2009 at 20:15

    Just a donations only! We have lots of homeless kids in the world. Adopt one or more!

  85. 95 Jennifer
    July 27, 2009 at 20:43

    Re: Before someone gets all excited: My driver’s license is marked ‘Donor’ and I have given blood.

    I’d never donate any of my organs to a stranger.

  86. 96 GTR5
    July 27, 2009 at 21:28

    I think that more people should freely donate blood for the military members that need it. They serve in harms way for us and wounded soldiers need the best care available. Please give!

  87. July 27, 2009 at 21:54

    Some People do get paid for blood organ and insurance benefit. Some have been denied despite being eligible for paying insurance contribution hoping to get paid for blood and Organ.Not paying to rightful people is a big business.Finding in Emergency Ward requiring blood is also fact.Blood is needed.But giving away Organ Sperm and Egg knowingly is individual’s choice.

  88. 98 USBloodCenter
    July 28, 2009 at 00:23

    Just to be clear, in the US, we do NOT pay people for donating blood. The system was abandoned several years ago because it was found that an all-volunteer supply was much, much safer. However, there are still a few places here and there that pay for plasma (a blood component).

    When you receive a blood transfusion, what you pay for is not the blood itself, but the tests conducted on it (11 different ones, including HIV, West Nile, etc), the cost to draw and store it, as well as the cost to transfuse it in to you. Blood centers (except for the plasma centers) are nonprofit and work on a cost-recovery basis only.

  89. July 28, 2009 at 00:52

    Yes, you should get paid.

  90. 100 Ramesh, India
    July 28, 2009 at 03:43

    Madeline, with reference to the caller from Nagpur I would like to bring to your notice that 10 lakhs make one million. It is 7 million units he was talking about with 40% shortage on it.

  91. 101 scmehta
    July 28, 2009 at 06:18

    Pay only the needy poor for contributing, and let only the needy poor get them for free; The others must pay for receivng them.

  92. 102 Josh
    July 28, 2009 at 15:14

    Sorry to say, but in today’s world, “nothing is sacred.” At least here in America, advertisers will do anything to generate a profit–exploiting everything from babies to sex to Jesus. If the free market has no scruples, I wouldn’t begrudge a private citizen if she wanted to sell her eggs for some much-needed cash. I might not necessarily agree with it, but that’s the way things are.

  93. 103 Terry
    July 28, 2009 at 16:50

    The whole policy of being paid for something that helps someone else enjoy longer life (blood donations ) should not be put in the same zone as donations of sperm or eggs, the latter doesn’t help save a life. If the NHS or any other organisation paid all the donors, then the person receiving the donation would also have to pay. Isn’t our NHS in a big enough mess now, without having charge you for the pint of blood you needed. Blood donatiosn should never be paid for they are the gift of life in some cases, the one good thing I can say is that I freely DONATE my blood, no payment required. Please let us keep it that way.

  94. 104 Keith
    July 28, 2009 at 18:35

    Considering there is a severe shortage of blood/plasma, and this is apparently not effective in getting people to donate, I don’t see a problem with donating blood for money. Sacrificing lives to preserve some half-hearted principle is silly.

    As far as sperm and eggs go, I don’t really care. The whole parent selection thing seems a bit creepy to me, but oh well. It just seems that the people that are forced to donate sperm and eggs to survive would not be selected by a potential mother as the biological parent to their children. I’m not being mean, just honest.

  95. July 29, 2009 at 03:52

    In my country, Singapore, the recipients pay a premium for blood. But the donors don’t get paid.
    One instance, a rich man wanted to buy a kidney illegally, but got caught and got fined. But shortly after, he got a transplant right after a criminal got hanged. It leaves a thick suspicion that he paid another premium to be first in line to receive the transplant.
    End of the whole saga, the ministry of health considered that Singapore could legalise and legislate organ sales.

  96. 106 Dennis Junior
    July 29, 2009 at 04:16

    Simple answer NO…To get paid for blood, sperm and eggs!

    ~Dennis Junior~

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