“Egg donation is like blood donation”: cameras hidden by the Daily Mail Newspaper show nurses in United Kingdom fertility clinics trying to convince women “to donate their eggs for money”. According to the law, egg donation is prohibited but clinics can provide compensation in the form of £750.00. These eggs are then used for couples who pay at least £7,500.
Advertisements have emerged following cuts in IVF treatment by the NHS: “No NHS financing for your fertility treatment? There’s another way!’: ‘Our Egg Share programme offers IVF free of charge’”. What these headlines do not say is that, in return, women must “donate” half of the eggs harvested by the clinic. These eggs are then used for other couples who pay the clinic ten times the amount paid to the donor.
Two journalists carried out their investigation. Turning up at one of these clinics as a couple, they were welcomed by a nurse who explained the procedure to them as follows: “Just think that they are cells. It’s just like donating blood, isn’t it? An egg isn’t a baby. Once people understand that, there are no longer any problems”. But this procedure isn’t as simple as it sounds: “Egg donation can have serious consequences. In addition, the recipient may become pregnant whereas the donor may have no children”. And, according to legislation, any child born through donor IVF treatment is entitled to know the identity of his/her biological parents.
For this procedure to be part of the legal framework, medical staff must ensure that potential donors act “altruistically” and not only in order to receive free or subsidised treatment that they could not pay for in full by their own means. A doctor explained that, in reality, “IVF is expensive for everyone. So, if you have the chance to cut the cost, anyone will opt for it”.
The Daily Mail investigation that highlighted this “trafficking” in numerous clinics, has triggered a response from the Health Authority, HFEA. A spokesperson announced: “This investigation has highlighted potential violations of our code. If a clinic appears to be violating our code, we will take regulatory measures”. The clinics, for their part, believe that the “Egg Share” programme is a “well-established technique” that “succeeds” and “benefits thousands of couples”.
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority
Daily Mail, Paul Bentley, Sara Smyth (1/05/2017)