Egg Donation in the UK, Belgium and Spain: an interdisciplinary study

Egg donation in the UK, Belgium and Spain: an interdisciplinary study




Donated eggs are now used in over 25,000 IVF treatment cycles in Europe, creating over 7000 babies per year, yet little is known about the motivations, decision-making and experiences of women who provide their eggs for use in infertility treatment, particularly in the European context. The growing use of egg donation treatment is the subject of fierce political and ethical debate and presents a number of dilemmas for practice professionals and policy makers. While the selling of human eggs in Europe is formally prohibited according to EU legislation ('reasonable compensation' for egg providers is permitted), there is considerable variation in the interpretation of relevant regulations between countries, resulting in significant differences in practice. The UK, Belgium and Spain represent three countries at the cutting edge of technological developments in the infertility field but which have developed differing practices relating to how egg donation is practiced and governed. The aim of this study is to explore the social, political, economic and moral configuration of egg donation in the UK, Belgium and Spain.

The Study

The study is largely qualitative and uses multiple methods of data collection, organised across five phases, to achieve its objectives. As well as developing theories about the provision and commercialisation of human tissue, the findings will be used to directly inform policy and practice in the UK and Europe. Beneficiaries therefore include policy makers, infertility clinicians, egg providers and related advocacy organisations.


Our research questions are: How are egg donation practices shaped by national economic, political, cultural and moral contexts? How do new reproductive subjectivities emerge as a result of (gendered) socio-technical processes such as egg donation? How do egg providers understand and frame egg donation in the context of infertility treatment and how is their moral reasoning shaped by a neo-liberal, bio-economic context? What is the role of professional rationalities and commercial choreographies in a global reproductive marketplace? How can a comparison of contrasting policy and practice contexts facilitate improvements in egg donation?


The study runs from April 2017 to March 2020.  Further information on the study can be found here, on the Research Council's website.


A project blog can be found here.


The Research Team

Professor Nicky Hudson (PI) – Reader in Medical Sociology and Director of the Centre for Reproduction Research (CRR), De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.


Professor Lorraine Culley – Independent Consultant and Emeritus Professor of Social Science and Health, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.


Dr Cathy Herbrand – VC2020 Senior Lecturer, CRR, De Montfort University Leicester, UK.


Dr Christina Weis - Research Fellow, CRR, De Montfort University Leicester, UK.



Dr Katie Coveney - Lecturer in Sociology in the Social and Policy Studies Unit, School of Social Sciences, Loughborough University - Study Associate.


Dr Vincenzo Pavone – Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Public Goods and Policies (IPP), Consejo Superior Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), Madrid, Spain.


Dr Sara Lafuente Funes - Research Associate, Institute of Public Goods and Policies (IPP), Consejo Superior Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), Madrid, Spain.


Professor Guido Pennings – Professor of Ethics and Bio Ethics, Bioethics Institute Ghent (BIG), Ghent University, Gent, Belgium.


Professor Veerle Provoost – Professor of Empirical Research Methods for Ethics and Bioethics, Bioethics Institute Ghent (BIG), Gent University, Belgium.


National Gamete Donation Trust (NGDT) – Study partner


If you would like to find out more about this project please contact:


Professor Nicky Hudson

Professor in Medical Sociology

Tel: +44 (0)116 207 8766



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