Sowing Your Seed…


Interesting debate going on in the UK media at the moment about whether or not people should be paid to donate their eggs/sperms.

The UK watchdog on this has recommended that payments for sperm stop, and that people should simply receive recompense for travel and/or loss of earnings. The reason given? ‘Because people should be giving as a gift, not to make a profit.’

Digging beneath the seemingly innate response that such a thing should be a ‘gift’ – regardless of whether it is right that people ought to be doing so – it is perhaps interesting to note the possible paradox in such a response.

The idea of ‘market exchange’ is that you pay money in order to balance the scales, and this then relieves you of any relational potential. You pay money for a meal in a restaurant so that you don’t have to ask the chef round for dinner to repay the favour. You don’t offer to pay at a dinner party because it would be an offense to the relationship to do so. So, while it is perhaps honorable that people are arguing for sperm/egg donations to be ‘gift exchange’, what is perhaps paradoxical is that the vast majority of them want to do so without leaving any relational potentiality – ie they don’t want some kid calling them when they are 18 saying ‘hi, you’re my dad/mum.’

The question then becomes: if we are going to preserve anonymity for donors, should we actually feel fine about paying them, as this payment would represent a proper balancing of the scales as appropriate in market exchange that doesn’t want the relational potentiality left hanging? But is this right? Shouldn’t a child have the right to know who their biological parents are? And if it is gift – given freely – who is it a gift to? The child? The parents struggling to conceive? And what happens to the inevitable relational potential that is always left when the gift is given?