July 06, 2010
Egg Donation agencies are independent service providers that prospective parents planning for an egg donation cycle contact for both donor identification and cycle management services. It is important for recipient parents to understand that currently there are few regulations around practices related to the operations of an egg donation agency. While many advocate for legislated best practices as a consumer protection effort, at this time, anyone interested in offering agency services can engage clients with little or no regulatory compliance requirements. For this reason, choosing an agency should be a thoughtful and informed process.
Are agencies issued licenses or otherwise overseen by local, state or federal government?
Unfortunately, agencies operate with very little oversight. Currently, only the New York State Department of Health issues a “license” to operate an egg donation agency. Anyone engaging recipient parents in egg donation services, including advertising such services in the State of New York must hold a Provisional License for Tissue Bank Operation (despite the title of the license, egg donation agencies are required to file for and are issued this license if they meet the NY State Dep’t of Health’s requirements with respect to record retention of services related to tissue (oocyte) donation). The otherwise lack of licensing, credentialing and/or oversight underscores the need for recipient parents to work with agencies that your clinic, especially your donor egg team, encourages you to consider.
Can the American Society of Reproductive Medicine offer me guidance in selecting an agency?
Recipient parents may visit www.sart.org for a list of agencies who have notified The Society of Assisted Reproduction Technology that they are operating in compliance with the guidelines for egg donation practice as set by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. It is important for recipient parents to know that agencies “self-elect” as being compliant and that SART does not verify whether or not an agency is being truthful in stating that their practices are ASRM compliant. For this reason, the recipient parent is further encouraged to consider those agencies preferred by their clinic.
How do I select an agency?
Most fertility clinics will offer their patients a list of preferred agencies. This list will indicate to recipient parents agencies with which the clinic has worked on previous egg donation cycles. Clinics build relationships with those donor agencies whose practices, policies and most importantly donor pools reflect the clinic’s standards for best practices. In addition to relying on the clinic’s preferred agency list, recipient parents would do well to speak with the donor egg nurse coordinator as well as other donor egg staff at their fertility clinic to ask about their experiences with agency staff; your clinic can give you tremendously reliable guidance in agency selection.
What do I ask an agency before deciding to do business with them?
Just as you want to inquire at your clinic about their familiarity with a particular agency, recipient parents should ask the agency how many cycles they have successfully completed at your fertility center. In addition to establishing that an agency understands what your clinic will expect, inquiring about years in business, number of cycles run, donor recruiting, qualifying and prescreening practices, qualification of the staff and of great importance, how the agency will manage the financial aspects of your cycle will allow you to make a consumer savvy agency decision.
If an agency has what I feel to be my “ideal donor” why do I need to be concerned about matters such as escrow practices?
Agencies will, on your behalf and for reasons related to the anonymity of your donor, incur expenses as your cycle proceeds. You will be required to deposit with the agency some or all of the funds necessary to cover those expenses as estimated by the agency and in accordance with your clinic’s requirements. (Note: expenses related to clinical services are not usually incurred by the agency; your clinic should bill you directly for medical services they provide to either you or your donor.) It is important for you to understand in what type of account your money will be deposited and held and how withdrawals from your deposit are managed and accounted for. Most agencies will require that you deposit funds into an escrow account. Many agencies use third-party escrow agents to avoid any question of impropriety. You should be told the name of the escrow agent and be given contact information as well as have an understanding as to the accounting practices around your deposit(s) and withdrawals as made by the agency. Some agencies have an in-house escrow service and if so, you should inquire about potential conflicts of interest and how any disputes will therefore be resolved.
If the agency you are considering does not offer escrow protection of your funds, you should give careful consideration as to what type of bank account your money will be deposited into, whether or not there will be a co-mingling of funds with either other recipient parents’ deposits and/or the operating account of the agency as well as what sort of accounting you can expect.
Recipient parents should consider discussing fund management issues as well as agency practices with the attorney they have retained for the drafting and negotiating of that contract you will enter into with the donor, otherwise known as the Egg Donor Agreement. Some recipient parents may choose to have their attorney also review that contract they will enter into with the agency to ensure that you are best protected.