Faced with the “lack” of oocytes available for the medically assisted procreation (MAP), the French Biomedicine Agency launched, at the end of May, in collaboration with health professionals and particularly with gynaecologists, a national information campaign aiming at promoting “oocyte donation”.
According to the last statistics from the Agency, in 2006, 228 women “gave” their oocytes (compared to 168 in 2005), enabling 384 in vitro fertilizations (IVF). In total, in 2006, over 100 children were born with an “oocyte donation”. It is around twenty years that this method is used and some 1,000 children came from an MAP with “oocyte donation”. We remind that among the 19,026 children born in 2005 of a MAP, 1,293 have been conceived with a “gamete donation”.
Relaxing the legal framework?
In France, the oocyte “donation” is supervised by the law of bioethics of 2004 and particularly relies on three principles which are: voluntary help, anonymity and gratuity. This “donation” aims at couples with pathological infertility or having a risk to transmit to the child a serious pathology. Furthermore, the law stipulates three criteria to be a “donor”: to be in healthy conditions, to be under 37 years old and to have at least one child.
Some people protest to ask for the expansion of this legal framework, particularly for expanding the limit of age of the “donors”, for abrogating the obligation to already be a mother, for removing the anonymity or even for paying this practice today only indemnified and 100% paid by French social security.
The oocyte “donation” is prohibited in Germany, Austria, Italy, Norway, Portugal and Switzerland. In countries where it is authorised, the legislations are very variable.
The anonymity is the rule in almost all countries, except in Sweden (since 1985) and United Kingdom (since 2005). Holland and Belgium have opted for a double possibility: the “donors” choose to remain anonymous or not. If the gratuity wins unanimous support in Europe, some countries like Spain, propose to financially compensate the painfulness of the “donation” process. It is not the case in France where the regulation imposes the reimbursement of all medical expenses and related expenses (work stoppage, transport…). Unlike in USA for example, the legislation enables buying oocytes. On the other hand, the obligation to already have a child is specific to France.
Compensation or income?
In order to try to palliate to this “lack” of oocytes, some countries plan to pay the “donors”. After Spain, the clinique de fertilité of Louvain, in Belgium, prompts students to give their oocytes for €750. In its guide, the Biomedicine Agency indicates that the time for obtaining oocytes is shorter in countries where the “donation” is paid and that “numerous professionals wonder if it would be necessary to pay this donation in order to attract more donors“.
A donation like others?
How not to be surprised when the scope of this donation is passed over in silence infinitely less ordinary than blood donation for example? In this information campaign, everything is established to make this act “commonplace”, to calm down the fears and to overcome the reservations. With as a slogan, “to give again the hope to become parents“, the Biomedicine Agency wants the “oocyte donation” to become a supreme act of solidarity. But do women who accept, by generosity, that the oocyte are sampled, know that “by giving” their sexual cells, they transfer life, and the life marked by their unique genotype?
Moreover, in addition to the medical risk inherent to the ovarian stimulation (syndrome of hyperstimulation) and to the puncture (haemorrhage, infection, anaesthetic risk), we can be worried about the psychological consequences on the “donor”, the two couples and the child. Is the “donor” woman simply used as a “surrogate mother” to the detriment of her own dignity? Will the recipient couple assume without difficulty the intervention of a third party within the procreation process? Regarding the child born of an anonymous oocyte, he could suffer from the same problems like some adopted children, who do not know their biological parents. But yet nobody would dare to present the adoption as a situation desired for itself…