What a coup for the human egg selling industry – the BBC has decided to give it some free advertising and PR. By posting this news story 'Why I chose to donate my eggs' on its home page, with not one single hint of the ethical and exploitative harmful mess that is egg donation, it has shown not just bias but utter ignorance. Its standard of reporting is shameful.
So let me help the BBC with this issue.
Egg ‘donation’ exploits both women’s health and their purses. Anonymous gamete donation can also cause a lifetime of harm to the children born.
I’ll start with the women drawn into selling (sorry, donating) their eggs. The health risks of egg donation (see here too ) are significant. As this Parliamentary question reveals, there is no follow-up of women’s health after egg donation, yet we know it can cause major, long-term health issues, as well as psychological harm. In fact the daughter of a friend was hospitalised.
There is exploitation involved. Only the disadvantaged, economically needy, fertile, vulnerable and – deliberately targeted – students donate eggs, rarely wealthy women. Why? Because it is risky, painful, invasive and emotionally damaging, so in general only those needing an incentive will consider doing it, ie cash (£750 per cycle of donation) or free IVF.
As for the children, no one is prepared to research fully the effect on them either. The HFEA, Government and regulatory bodies all fail to follow up women who have donated eggs, or women who have received donated eggs, or children who are born of donated gametes. It is an industry left to its own devices. We and others have called time and again for proper follow-up.
We are left with having to draw lessons from adopted children. And the lessons to be learnt from them are that they frequently feel a deep sense of loss if they don’t know about their genetic parents, despite having loving adoptive parents. Additionally, their medical histories are being denied them. This website reveals some of the life-long heartache of people who were donor-conceived. (To clarify, adoption is a positive and mutually beneficial act, providing a child for a childless couple and a loving home for a child in need. It is making the best of a difficult situation, whereas the fertility industry deliberately and intentionally creates difficult situations, and loss, for financial gain). Egg and sperm donation is unique, and should be seen as more than just a moment of donation, because it will impact several generations hence. The gametes produced now will produce children, who will have their own children – it is not just a ‘one-off’ event. It denies basic knowledge about themselves that the rest of us take for granted.
And driving it all – now with the help from the BBC – is an industry. Women’s eggs are needed for the fertility industry and for embryo research (including gene editing, creating three-parent babies, hybrids etc). How do scientists get hold of the hundreds of eggs needed? By enticing women with cash or cut-price IVF. (See this advert here). Such incentives are essential because there are no health benefits, only risks, for women donors – and it is ethically dubious research.
Unlike the licencepayer-funded BBC, the Daily Mail has done a little more investigation into egg donation and discovered that fertility clinics have been exploiting couples desperate to have children. The major allegation was that women were being persuaded to donate their healthy eggs in return for free IVF at clinics in London, Hertfordshire and County Durham. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says the allegations are serious and worrying.
Does the health and wellbeing of women count for so little? Where are the feminists standing up for them? Where are the regulators? The lack of tracking, research and data is shocking. Egg donors need to know that long-term research on their health simply is not there. And the BBC should certainly not be in the business of so blatantly promoting it.