INTERVIEW: My egg donor agency billed me $3,400 for backing out. I fought back.

Kari would have been an LA-based egg donor if she had gone through with donating her eggs. Upon learning the risks, she decided to back out … only to be hit with a $3,400 bill for fees incurred by the recipients. In this interview, she describes her experience working with a well-known Los Angeles agency… and how she advocated for herself in the end.

WE ARE EGG DONORS: Tell me about how you found your agency and what led you to donate your eggs.

Kari: It was about 2 years ago and my coworker at the time had suggested it to me. I was struggling financially, couldn’t pay my bills, and looking to make fast money. She, who was a donor herself, also worked for the agency part-time so it wasn’t difficult for her to sell me on it. The idea of helping out a family and receiving a decent compensation ($8,000) wasn’t something I felt I needed to think twice about. She sent me the application and I filled it out and sent it in that same day.

It took TWO years for me to get matched but once I did I was elated. I couldn’t wait to get the ball rolling and collect my dough.

Just two days before my decision to back out I was at the HRC office in Newport meeting my IPs. They wanted to get a feel for my personality and I didn’t see anything wrong with that. At the end of our meeting we were all excited and anticipating the retrieval so my decision to back out now definitely came out of left field to them (as it did me!).

WAED: You mentioned that your clinic was interested in getting you to agree to multiple recipients. How did they pitch this?

Kari: They were very nonchalant about their approach. They convinced me that ultimately I had nothing to lose. My case manager told me my compensation wouldn’t change it just makes it financially easier for the IPs. It was basically like “why just donate to one set of IPs when you can donate to two?!” Of course, letting my naiveté to all this at the time get the best of me, I agreed on the spot. I didn’t even learn that doing a shared cycle puts you at a higher risk for complications until weeks after I backed out.

WAED: Did they say anything about these risks?

Kari: There was never a discussion had about any risks. I had only been mildly informed about possible risks through what I had read on the Internet. In fact, when I brought up the risk of Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome to my case manager (during my conversation with her about backing out) she told me that there were never any cases of girls hyper-stimulating that had donated at their clinic. WHAT?!

WAED: I almost donated through the same clinic. They didn’t go as far as to say they hadn’t seen a case of OHSS, but they told me that OHSS was very rare.

Kari: This seemed bizarre to me because I had just read stories and spoken to so many past donors and pretty much all of them said they hyperstimmed, developed ovarian cysts, or dealt with some complication after their procedure. Back in May, when I went in for my ultrasound I did ask my doctor about future infertility or long term risks I might encounter.

He reassured me I would be fine and told me what all these doctors apparently say: “there are NO reported cases of women suffering infertility or other issues due to donating their eggs.” Then he sent me on my way.

I believed him not only because that was exactly what I wanted to hear but also because he is a professional.

It wasn’t until a couple weeks later I found out that the reason there aren’t any reported cases is because there haven’t been any studies conducted and because this process is anonymous it’s impossible to track any long term effects on anyone.

WAED: Why did you decide that you no longer wanted to donate?

Kari: My reasoning for backing out came to me very randomly and with impeccable timing. I’ll try to give you the short version. It was a slow day for me at work so I was skimming through Reddit when I came across a post some girl made asking fellow Redditors how she should handle the lump sum of money she’d be receiving after she donated her eggs.

I read through the entire thread and by the end, I was horrified. So many people were commenting not with financial guidance but with advice and health concerns regarding the actual donation process.

I couldn’t believe how in the dark I was and all the things I didn’t know and wasn’t informed of. It just so happens that this was the same day my case manager emailed me with my injection schedule and told me my medication would arrive at my home any day.

I spent the next few hours researching and talking to other donors. I was invited to the We Are Egg Donors secret forum and I’m SO happy I found it! After hearing enough stories and getting advice from these girls I just knew I could not be comfortable following through. I was terrified and in tears. My fiance and I very much look forward to having our own children one day and I couldn’t imagine voluntarily putting myself at risk of losing that opportunity forever. I stepped outside and made the phone call to my case manager to let her know I didn’t feel comfortable risking my health and my fertility.

WAED: What did the agency say when you wanted to back out?

Kari: As you’d expect, they were not thrilled. My case manager questioned where all of my fear came from and tried to convince me to change my mind. I was all blubbery and apologetic because I knew what a blow this would be to my IPs and I. Felt. Awful.

But I knew my health came first and I made it clear that I wouldn’t be changing my mind.

She went on about how my doctor is one of the best in this field and how he has all these credentials… that I was in really good hands! Blah blah blah. She also asked where I was getting all this information from and who I’d been speaking to specifically.

I didn’t feel I needed to provide any of that to her… But it didn’t matter.

She then went on to tell me not to believe everything I read online and certainly not to “rely on groups like WAED to make my decision.” Um… WHY THE HELL NOT? This group is filled with real women with real experiences that are willing to share and help other donors. This is exactly the place I need to be getting my information from.

Once she realized she couldn’t change my mind, her cheery, friendly demeanor quickly fell. She told me I would now be responsible for paying for all of the screenings, exams, etc. and would call me back with a number. Within minutes, she called me back requesting $3400 in ten days! Ok firstly, if I had an extra $3400 laying around I wouldn’t be trying to donate in the first place.

I was livid.

I wasn’t sure where I stood at this point or if I was actually liable for these costs but I knew I wouldn’t let them take advantage of me, I was the only one that could defend me. I had to be smart and I was.

WAED: How did you handle this?

Kari: I was devastated obviously. To get this far into the cycle and opt out I knew was an inconvenience to everyone. Not only was I letting down one set of IPs but two. Throw that on top of my raging hormones from the awful birth control they prescribe. I was a mess. But in all honesty, I felt SUCH a weight lifted off of me once my decision was made. I truly felt I was dodging a huge bullet by backing out.

WAED: This all could have been avoided had they done their due diligence and given you adequate information so that you could make an informed choice. What happened next?

Kari: After that phone conversation my case manager emailed me requesting a written statement with reasons of my cancellation, to write a letter to the IPs explaining why I no longer wanted to donate, and attached an invoice for $3400. Thanks to some of the girls in the WAED Facebook group, I knew that there might be some loopholes I could work off of being that I hadn’t yet started my injections. I pulled up my contract and copied and pasted a portion of it in my email response to her. The contract states that I can “terminate the agreement prior to beginning medication with no further obligations.” In another paragraph it says I would only be responsible for the replacement costs of all the exams ONLY if I failed to take the medications as directed. She came back and said that since I had been taking the birth control, technically, I had already begun medications. This was true but I knew I had to keep trying to find SOMETHING in that contract to relieve me of paying them. Luckily I did! In another paragraph it stated that “Any party may terminate this Agreement at any time prior to the commencement of cycle injections upon ten (10) business day’s written notice in care of [the agency]. Upon such notice, no party shall have any further obligation to any other party.” It specifically says “cycle injections.” When I sent that to her she ignored me and again requested a letter for the IPs. I told her I wouldn’t be writing anything until she gave me a written statement that my agreement was terminated and no fees were owed. She did. Just like that! I couldn’t believe it. They tried getting over 3 grand from me that they knew I wasn’t responsible for!

WAED: What did you do?

Kari: At that point I was disgusted and infuriated. I realized what a shady business they were running. They saw me as a commodity and nothing more and that only solidified my decision not to donate. After she sent me a written statement I stopped communicating with them. I didn’t write a letter to the parents either, not because I didn’t want to but I didn’t feel comfortable putting anything in writing and sending it to them.

WAED: What advice do you have for egg donors or women considering egg donation?

Kari: In my opinion, there are so many things wrong with the entire egg donating process from beginning to end. There’s too much mystery and too much risk. I know there are plenty of donors who have had positive experiences and I think they should consider themselves lucky. If anyone were to come to me and say they were considering donating their eggs, without question I would highly advise against it. There needs to be more research done, women need to start voicing themselves more and sharing their stories. I’ve heard and read about too many women regretting their decision to donate and wishing they knew then what they know now.

If I can give any advice based off of my own experience it’s READ YOUR CONTRACT. Don’t let agencies threaten you or make you feel like you have to do something you’re not comfortable doing. You are never totally locked into following through with this no matter where you are in your cycle. No one has your best interest in mind but you, remember that! There is a reason the compensation is so high for this. But there is nothing in this world worth risking your health for.

WAED: Thanks for speaking with us.