Bioethics Expert Suggests Women Reconsider Plan to Donate Eggs to Clinics

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 3, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Bioethics Expert Suggests Women Reconsider Plan to Donate Eggs to Clinics

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 3
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — A bioethics expert is suggesting that women rethink possible plans to donate their eggs to fertility clinics for research or use in pregnancy. Jennifer Lahl of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network says egg donation is potentially harmful for women.

Lahl says egg donation is a "risky business" and unlike a high-risk job where employees receive appropriate compensation for the dangers (think skyscraper window washing) the egg donation process is inherently risky, from beginning to end.

Stroke, organ failure, infection, cancer, loss of future fertility, and in rare instances, even death — those are the risk Lahl says women could incur from participating.

"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," the bioethics expert says.

While egg donation is sometimes seen as similar to organ donation, Lahl says that’s not the case.

"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," Lahl said. "The end purpose of the donation is importantly different, and therefore, not analogous to organ donation."

Lahl also says the public should, rightfully, see egg donation in a similar manner as the sale of organs — instead of the ethical decision to donate organs after a patient is deceased.

"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," Lahl says.

The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network president also says women need to be informed about the impact of egg donations, because it can affect future fertility.

"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," she explains.

Lahl also questions the purposes behind egg donations.

"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,’ she notes. "Most IVF cycles fail (only a 30-40% success rate) and the effectiveness of current [embryonic] stem cell therapy is all very speculative."

Ultimately, Lahl suggests women carefully consider these points before agreeing to the egg donation process.

"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?" she concludes. "Thinking about donating your eggs? Think again."

Related web sites:
Center for Bioethics and Culture Network –

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