Stakeholders views on the ethical aspects of oocyte banking for third-party assisted reproduction: a qualitative interview study with donors, recipients and professionals

E M Kool, R van der Graaf, A M E Bos, J J P M Pieters, I M Custers, B C J M Fauser, A L Bredenoord

Published: 01/05/2019


Study question: What are the moral considerations held by donors, recipients and professionals towards the ethical aspects of the intake and distribution of donor bank oocytes for third-party assisted reproduction?

Summary answer: Interviews with oocyte donors, oocyte recipients and professionals demonstrate a protective attitude towards the welfare of the donor and the future child.

What is known already: The scarcity of donor oocytes challenges the approach towards the many ethical aspects that arise in establishing and operating an oocyte bank for third-party assisted reproduction. Including experiences and moral considerations originating from practice provides useful insight on how to overcome these challenges.

Study design, size, duration: The project was set-up as a qualitative interview study and took place between October 2016 and August 2017.

Participants/materials, setting, methods: We conducted 25 semi-structured interviews with professionals engaged in the practice of oocyte banking (n = 10), recipients of donor oocytes (n = 7) and oocyte donors (n = 8). Key themes were formulated by means of a thematic analysis.

Main results and the role of chance: Based on the interviews, we formulated four main themes describing stakeholders’ views regarding the ethical aspects of the intake and distribution of donor bank oocytes. First, respondents articulated that when selecting donors and recipients, healthcare workers should prevent donors from making a wrong decision and safeguard the future child’s well-being by minimizing health risks and selecting recipients based on their parental capabilities. Second, they proposed to provide a reasonable compensation and to increase societal awareness on the scarcity of donor oocytes to diminish barriers for donors. Third, respondents considered the prioritization of recipients in case of scarcity a difficult choice, because they are all dependent on donor oocytes to fulfil their wish for a child. They emphasized that treatment attempts should be limited, but at least include one embryo transfer. Fourth and finally, the importance of good governance of oocyte banks was mentioned, including a homogenous policy and the facilitation of exchange of experiences between oocyte banks.

Limitations, reasons for caution: The possibility of selection bias exists, because we interviewed donors and recipients who were selected according to the criteria currently employed in the clinics.

Wider implications of the findings: Respondents’ moral considerations regarding the ethical aspects of the intake and distribution of donor oocytes demonstrate a protective attitude towards the welfare of the donor and the future child. At the same time, respondents also questioned whether such a (highly) protective attitude was justified. This finding may indicate there is room for reconsidering strategies for the collection and distribution of donor bank oocytes.

Study funding/competing interest(s): This study was funded by ZonMw: The Dutch Organization for Health Research and Development (Grant number 70-73000-98-200). A.M.E.B. and B.C.J.M.F. are the initiators of the UMC Utrecht oocyte bank. J.J.P.M.P. is the director of the MCK Fertility Centre. IMC is working as a gynaecologist at the AMC Amsterdam oocyte bank. During the most recent 5-year period, BCJM Fauser has received fees or grant support from the following organizations (in alphabetic order): Actavis/Watson/Uteron, Controversies in Obstetrics & Gynaecologist (COGI), Dutch Heart Foundation, Dutch Medical Research Counsel (ZonMW), Euroscreen/Ogeda, Ferring, London Womens Clinic (LWC), Merck Serono (GFI), Myovant, Netherland Genomic Initiative (NGI), OvaScience, Pantharei Bioscience, PregLem/Gedeon Richter/Finox, Reproductive Biomedicine Online (RBMO), Roche, Teva and World Health Organization (WHO). The authors have no further competing interests to declare.

Full Access Link: Human reproduction (Oxford, England)