Backgrounder: Reimbursing donors and surrogates


October 2018

The Assisted Human Reproduction Act (AHR Act) prohibits the purchase of sperm and ova from a donor or a person acting on behalf of a donor, and prohibits payment to a surrogate.

These prohibitions are based on recommendations from the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies, which were informed by extensive consultations with Canadians.

The prohibitions are also consistent with one of the key principles that underpins the Act, in which the Parliament of Canada recognized and declared that “trade in the reproductive capabilities of women and men and the exploitation of children, women and men for commercial ends raise health and ethical concerns that justify their prohibition.”

However, the AHR Act also recognizes that donors and surrogates should not be out-of-pocket for expenditures they incur as a result of their donation or surrogacy. As such, the Act allows for the reimbursement of expenditures in accordance with the regulations.

The proposed new regulations under the AHR Act will establish broad categories of expenditures that could be reimbursed. These could apply to a sperm or ova donor, a surrogate, or to a person for the maintenance and transport of in-vitro embryos. For example, donors and surrogates could incur expenses related to travel, or legal or counselling services in the course of their donation or surrogacy. The proposed regulations will also set requirements for reimbursing a surrogate mother who has incurred a loss of work-related income due to her pregnancy.

Introducing reimbursement regulations provides donors with greater clarity about what types of expenditures may be reimbursed and sets out a clear process for being reimbursed.

Health Canada heard from many Canadians and stakeholders on the issue of payment. Some expressed support for amending the AHR Act to allow for payment, while others continue to support the current prohibitions.

The proposed regulations are an important first step in strengthening the Act. Following the conclusion of the current regulatory project, the Department plans to review the Act to consider whether amendments are needed. This will include a careful study of the issue, including a broad consultation with Canadians.

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