I've lately been looking into this, and I wonder what people here think. Seems like a low hanging fruit for successful altruistic people (possibly with other traits as well, such as being healthy). Both for the direct impact of creating a... better child than (than the counterfactual one), and also for the indirect impact of normalizing the practice.

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Feb 09, 2020


Adding to what Khorton said, it depends a lot on what your bar for doing good that you consider worth doing is and what you consider 'doing good' to be.

In the UK, there is an egg and sperm donor shortage, so there is some chance you will cause children to exist that wouldn't have existed otherwise (instead of just 'replacing' children).


Feb 12, 2020


Since you are asking "who" should do it (rather than whether more or less people in general should do it, which seems the more relevant question since it would carry the bulk of the effect), I would wish to replace any anonymous donors with people who are willing to take a degree of responsibility for and engagement with the resulting child and their feelings about it, since looking at opinion polls from donor conceived people has made me think there's a reasonable chance they experience negative emotions about the whole thing at non-negligible rates and it is possible that this might be mitigated by having a social relationship to the donor.

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I think discussion of this typically doesn't acknowledge that it's actually not an option for most people. Your age, test scores, weight, height, attractiveness, ethnicity, and personal and family medical and mental health history all have to be what the agency wants. Most people I know who've considered this option have not made it past the screening. Even if you're donating for a friend or family member, their clinic may not approve you e.g. if you've experienced mental health problems.


Although sperm and egg donation have similarities (they can both result in a child!), egg donation is a lot more involved.

First, you will need to take medication to stop your menstrual cycle. Then, you'll need to give yourself daily injections to cause hyperstimulation of your reproductive system. The chance of pregnancy (including ectopic pregnancy or multiples) during this time is quite high and the only type of birth control you'll be able to use is condoms; it might be a good idea to abstain from sex. A few women develop overstimulated ovaries and require hospitalisation. This part of the process takes a few weeks.

The actual procedure to remove the eggs involves inserting a needle into the ovaries through the vagina for about 30 minutes. You may be under anaesthetic, so expect to give yourself some time to recover.

Usually this process will result in about 10 eggs.

I think considering whether EAs would be egg donors is an interesting question, but the time and medical considerations involved is very different.


There are also multiple medical and genetic appointments required in advance. I am currently undergoing the process to become an egg donor in the UK (though there is a good chance that I will be rejected) and the process is quite involved. To some extent, this is also true for sperm donors.

In some ways the UK sperm donation process is an even more serious commitment than egg donation.

From what I was told, the rejection rate is extremely high — close to 99% of applicants are filtered out for one reason or another. If you get through that process they'll want you to go in and donate once a week or more, for at least a year. Each time you want to donate, you can't ejaculate for 48 hours beforehand.

And the place I spoke to said they'd aim to sell enough sperm to create 30 kids in the UK, and even more overseas.

The ones born in the UK can find out who you are and contact you once they turn 18. With so many children potentially resulting, there's a good chance that a number will do so. It would be worth thinking ahead of time how you'd respond, and whether that's something you'll want in your life in ~20 years' time.

I'm fairly surprised by this response, this doesn't match what I have read. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority imposes a limit for sperm and egg donors to donate to a maximum of ten families in the UK, although there is no limit on how many children might be born to these ten families (I'm struggling to link, but google 'HFEA ten family limit'). But realistically, they won't all want to have three children.

I'm curious whether you have a source for the claim that 99% of prospective sperm donors in the UK get rejected? I'm much less confident about this, but this doesn't line up with my impression. I also didn't have the impression they were particularly picky about egg donors, unlike in the US.

But yes, it's true for sperm and egg donors alike that in the UK they can be contacted once the offspring turns 18.

Hmmmm, this is all what I was told at one place. Maybe some of these rules — 30 kids max, donating for a year at a minimum, or the 99% figure — are specific to that company, rather than being UK-wide norms/regulations.

Or perhaps they were rounding up to 99% to just mean 'the vast majority'.

I'd forgotten about the ten family limit, thanks for the reminder.

Like you I have the impression that they're much less selective on eggs.

HFEA says that most donors "create one or two families, with one or two children each". The legal maximum is 10 families.

"You’ll normally need to go to a fertility clinic once a week for between three and six months to make your donation."


Hi Khorton — yes as I responded to Denise, it appears the one year thing must have been specific to the (for-profit) bank I spoke with. They pay so many up-front costs for each new donor I think they want to ensure they get a lot of samples out of each one to be able to cover them.

And perhaps they were highballing the 30+ number, so they couldn't say they didn't tell you should the most extreme thing happen, even if it's improbable.

Donating (selling) eggs can make someone a good amount of money, too. So it's also possibly a good idea for ETG reasons.

*depending on the country. In the UK, you can legally only be paid up to £750. Given that you'll have to take a couple days off work, I don't think the money is really a deciding factor in this case.

I think you can travel to another country to donate eggs there. I think in general you get paid more in other countries if you are of certain demographics.