Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hazardous Pay: Creating a Market for Eggs

This is a tale of two stories: I have long said that what I call the "egg dearth" will stymie the drive by biotechnologists to engage in human cloning research. That is happening now, and the scientists are none too happy about. And, as I predicted, the push is on to permit buying eggs for cloning research.

But we've discussed that before here at SHS. The good news in the latest report from the AP about the push to allow eggs to be purchased for research, byline Mrcus Wohlsen, actually discussed the risks to women. From the story :

Critics of the egg-dependent approach to stem cells say the promise of the research is outweighed by the potential harm to women, a view that has prevailed among regulators.

Even under normal doses, drugs used to coax eggs for use by fertilization clinics can occasionally lead to serious complications caused by excessive stimulation of the ovaries. In rare instances, the condition can be fatal.

Egg payments could also create a conflict of interest for those retrieving the eggs, according to therapeutic cloning skeptics. If money changed hands, they say, doctors responsible for the well-being of egg donors would also have a financial incentive to administer high doses of egg-stimulating drugs to produce as many eggs as possible.
Egg buying is already a fact in the fertility industry. But in promoting the practice, somehow the risks went unmentioned in a piece reported by Channel 5 Fox News in Las Vegas. From the story:
"The donors will make in the area of $7,000, and the surrogates will make anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 plus," said Nancy Block, founder of the Center For Egg Options.In the Valley, Dr. Bruce Shapiro at the Fertility Center of Las Vegas said compensation is closer to $3,000 to $5,000.

But he said he hopes the economy is not the main reason more women are donating.

"We really try to have people who donate for altruistic reasons. That's the best of all worlds. Sometimes you can't be absolutely certain. You can only be certain of what a person tells you," Shapiro said.

He said it is a fairly simple process that takes about three weeks."It's more invasive than donating sperm, but still, it's painless, and there's more time involved, but we try to make it as smooth a process as possible," Shapiro said. He said the side effects of donation usually include some aches and cramps, similar to those of a woman's period.
Shapiro should be ashamed, unless he gave a full description of the risks and it didn't make the story, in which case the producers at Fox 5 in Las Vegas should be ashamed.

Example: View this video of Calla Papademus, a former Stanford student, telling how she almost died when she sold her eggs.

Some say that biotech and fertility medicine should be treated the same with regard to buying eggs. I agree. Ban the practice altogether. That would still permit true donations and permit women to have their own eggs harvested for use in fertility treatments. But it would prevent turning women into commodities and save some from experiencing devastating health problems. It might even save their lives.