14. May 2010 19:23
The New York Times has just published an article on the ramifications of egg donation which points to the need for much greater scrutiny of this billion dollar industry. Ads recruiting egg donors are ubiquitous in college newspapers with payments made rising with the prestige of the university targeted. Some egg brokers offer $10,000 for young women with the “right” genetic traits such as specific eye and hair color, raising the ugly specter of eugenics.
Beyond the issues of eugenics and classism is the issue of sexism. No one expresses concern about men donating sperm or how they might “feel regret” someday when they have their own child. This attitude reflects patriarchal ideas about gender roles and differences inculcated through cultural conditioning rather than objective fact.
As there is no regulation of egg donation in the United States, egg brokers are not required to inform women donors of the possible health risks associated with egg donation, ranging from minor to serious: abdominal swelling, mood swings, and hot flashes to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome which produces intense pain and can result in blood clots, kidney failure and other life-threatening conditions (not to mention having to undergo surgery to extract their eggs). Long-term research needs to be conducted on the effects of hormone injections which stimulate the ovaries to produce 10 or more ova in just one cycle. Anyone at the NIH (National Institutes of Health) reading?
Often viewed as the ultimate capitalist state, with profit, private enterprise and the “free market” exalted above all else, the U.S. stands alone among developed countries with no regulation whatever of this industry, making caveat emptor a critical necessity.
It’s time for bioethicists, consumer protection groups and women’s rights organizations to come together and shed a bright light on this unfettered commerce and its implications for women’s health and the values of the larger society.