Egg donation is risky business. But unlike other high-risk jobs that offer appropriate compensation for the dangers (e.g., skyscraper window washing), the egg donation process is inherently risky, from beginning to end. What are those risks? Stroke, organ failure, infection, cancer, loss of future fertility, and in rare instances, even death. Sadly, longer-term risks remain a mystery, let alone properly understood, because of the lack of any long-term medical research or follow-ups on egg donors.
But isn’t egg donation like organ donation? In organ donation, the donor assumes risks to his own health in order to save a patient’s life—to help a sick or dying person. But the recipient of the egg donor’s gametes is not sick or unhealthy—not a patient, but a consumer, purchasing her eggs. The end purpose of the donation is importantly different, and therefore, not analogous to organ donation. And society rightfully condemns the selling or payment for organs in order to prevent abuses and save lives, whereas the large sums of monetary compensation to women egg donors causes them to be exploited by their need for money. Financial incentives impede true, freely given informed consent. Like organs, eggs are a non-replenishable resource. Women are born with a finite number of eggs—and egg donation strips women of this limited resource.
And whether the egg donation debate is around the need for human eggs by IVF clinics, who need eggs to help infertile couple build a family; or whether the embryonic stem cell researcher’s need for human eggs to find cures for disease, this practice is especially egregious given the speculative and questionable nature of both of these enterprises. Most IVF cycles fail (only a 30-40% success rate) and the effectiveness of current stem cell therapy is all very speculative.
Ask yourself this question now. Would you donate your eggs? Would you want your 18 year old daughter, your sister, or your girlfriend or wife to do this? Most people, once properly informed of the risks say, “No! Keep your hands off our ovaries!”
Thinking about donating your eggs? Think again!
President, The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network