Balancing egg donation and infertility treatment

July 29, 2010 by  

Young women who Google “egg donation” can find plenty of people interested in them.  In their eggs , that is – if they pass the test.  Buyers often want to know a lot about a woman before creating their own offspring using her eggs including body type, ethnicity and intelligence quotient.    Others are less interested in those particulars.  They simply want eggs.  Lots of eggs.
 
Buying and selling human oocytes (eggs) is a $3 billion dollar a year industry that easily can exploit young women paid handsomely to provide a scarce resource to infertility clinics for the purpose of helping couples conceive through in-vitro fertilization treatment.  And researchers want them for experimentation.
 
Lured by lucrative payments, averaging $3,000 to $5,000 per retrieval, much more in some states, women who are usually financially needy and/or tempted to pay off college expenses in this way, undergo a highly invasive extraction procedure, often without fully understanding the potential short and long term risks – known and unknown – to their own health.
 
Read Dr. Jennifer Schneider’s testimony before Congress.  She talks about her daughter, Jessica, who… 
 
 “…. underwent the procedure 3 times, and then went on with her life.  Six years later she was dead of a disease that usually affects people my age, not hers – colon cancer.  She had no family history of this disease, and genetic studies of her tissue subsequently showed that she was not at genetic risk of colon cancer.”
  
Her daughter’s death thrust her into investigating the IVF industry and reforming its practices.
 
The industry has boomed over the last ten years and former egg donors experiencing medical problems and untimely cancers are coming  forward in greater numbers, demanding industry accountability.  As a result of Dr. Schneider’s and other’s testimonies, the Arizona Legislature passed and Gov. Brewer signed SB 1306 ( AKA HB 2651) into law this session. 
 
It  requires physicians to inform a potential egg donor of the health risks associated with powerful hormone injections and the extraction procedure prior to the screening, obtain her written consent and treat her with the same standard of care as a recipient patient.
 
The law also bans the purchase of human eggs in Arizona for cloning and  purposes other than treatment of human infertility.   Women will still be able to donate their eggs for research purposes, however.  

The heartbreak of infertility is very real and, as more couples start their families later, it is more common than ever.  Their views cannot and should not be taken lightly.  And they weren’t.  Legislators heard from many IVF recipients who now enjoy wonderful offspring as a result and considered their views throughout the bill’s deliberations.  Some attended committee hearings, often with their little ones, to help make the argument the legislation would negatively impact the IVF industry’s efforts to treat infertile women like themselves.
 
It won’t.   Indeed, bill sponsors Sen. Linda Gray and myself met repeatedly with several groups of IVF physicians and other industry professionals to ensure the bill would not impact their work.
 
What it will do is protect donor women ripe for exploitation.  Certainly there is a balance between helping infertile couples and providing reasonable protections for the women targeted to help them. 
SB 1306 is a start. 

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