Dr John Waterstone, medical director of Cork Fertility Centre, made his comments ahead of an international egg donation seminar in Cork this weekend.
The free seminar at the River Lee Hotel will focus on egg donation, the process in which the eggs of a younger woman are substituted for the woman’s own eggs.
However, while sperm donors receive money, in Ireland and much of Europe, women who donate eggs do not, leading many to travel to countries such as Spain and the Czech Republic where payment is made.
The Cork Fertility Clinic has formed a link with the US-based Shady Grove Fertility Clinic, the latter offering a money-back system if clients do not become pregnant after a certain point in the process.
Dr Waterstone said clinics paid egg donors for participating in what he said was a comprehensive process takes a number of weeks, whereas in Europe payment for egg donation was “frowned upon”.
“The thinking in Europe is muddled,” he said of the “reluctance” to pay egg donors. “It has been this accepted view.”
He said the attitude was “not coherent” precisely because women from countries where payment is not made can travel to countries where they are paid for donating.
However, that level of payment, understood to be around €1,000, is much less than the amount paid by American clinics.
Dr Waterstone also said that in Europe there was less transparency regarding success rates in clinics, unlike in the US.
As for the number of Irish women likely to be travelling to clinics overseas, he said: “It’s very common. We can assume it is getting more prevalent.”
Dr Waterstone said while there was criticism about the “commercial” nature of egg donation in the US, the only reason he could think for not making payment for egg donation would be the chance that a client might choose not to disclose some aspect of family medical history.
However, to counter that argument, he said any woman undergoing egg donation had to participate in a thorough process that takes several weeks to complete.