Saturday, February 03, 2007

Should Women Be Paid for Supplying Eggs?

Say you’re a woman who wants to have fertility treatment but can’t afford the $5,000 to $6,000 cost.

What if you could get it for half-price, by agreeing to donate half the eggs you produce for stem cell research?

In Britian, women may get a chance to participate in this type of program, and doctors and ethicists are weighing in on both sides of the debate over whether or not there should be financial compensation for supplying eggs.

Some believe that egg donors should be treated and compensated in the same way as any other medical research participant.

From Dr. Alison Murdoch of Newcastle University, who has proposed the idea of an "egg rebate":
Murdoch says that as long as women provide informed consent, she believes that egg-sharing is no different from standard medical practices, such as giving blood or participating in drug trials.

Others say that it will exploit poor, disadvantaged women:
If stem cell researchers offer the kind of money that fertility clinics do, “I think any woman who’s trying to pay the rent and put food on the table, and people who don’t have a lot of money to spare, are going to be tempted to discount the risks and overvalue the benefits,” [Marcy Darnovsky] said.

Similarly, ethicist Laurie Zoloth of Northwestern University believes that paying compensation could exploit some women. Women who give eggs to fertility clinics are doing it for the money, she said, and as a society, “we don’t ... want the bodies of the poor used for the needs of the wealthy.”

“I think it smacks of offering financial inducement to women to donate eggs specifically for research,” said Dr. Stephen Minger, director of the stem cell biology laboratory at King’s College in London. “You will be exploiting women for money,” said Minger, who says that participants would be convinced to undergo the treatments for financial gain.

Hudson agreed, saying it would appeal to women of limited means who are “desperately trying to get pregnant” and offers the possibility of a baby in return for eggs. “How is that not undue influence?” she asked.

Art Caplan weighed in as well, MSNBC:
Giving rebates for eggs smacks of commercializing reproduction. On its face it is not quite as bad as instituting a market but it still feels ethically queasy. Who really wants their mother, sister or daughter to have to give away half their eggs and reduce their own chance of having a baby in order to gain access to infertility treatment? Worse still, who really wants their sister or daughter working their way through college as an egg seller?

It is one thing to argue that we should be using spare or unwanted embryos that already exist for research since they will be destroyed anyway. But making eggs for money is a different matter. The market in eggs tries to incentivize women to do something they otherwise would not do.

Read the rest of the article here.

1 comment:

BuddhistValkyrie said...

Worse still, who really wants their sister or daughter working their way through college as an egg seller?
Er...but women already do this? (Just at my undergrad institution, I knew a good half dozen women selling their eggs to pay for school.)