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A Response to “Eggsploitation”


a blog by Amy Demma, Prospective Families, September 1, 2010

I am writing today to prospective parents considering egg donation, to the parents of donor-conceived children and to donor candidates. I want to address the claims made by and in support of Eggsploitation: The Infertility Industry Has a Dirty Little Secret, a documentary recently released and soon to be screened on Capitol Hill by the Center for Bioethics and Culture.

Comparing Notes with Colleagues

Since word of this film came to our community, my colleagues and I have been talking about the young women portrayed, each alleging grave side-effects suffered, they claim, as a result of their respective egg donation experiences.

“The young women interviewed in this film talk about suffering from strokes, brain damage, internal bleeding or infertility after the procedure. Some ended up with cancer. Others nearly died from complications of the surgery done to retrieve the eggs,” says Chuck Colson, Founder of the Colson Center for a Christian Worldview.

My colleagues and I are comparing notes. We are sharing our respective histories of having worked, likely in a collective sense, with thousands of egg donors. We are worried that the correlations alleged in the film between dire health consequences and egg donation will impact how hopeful parents (and even successful recipient parents) regard this family building option. We are concerned that donor candidates will become alarmed.

While it would be unfair to the women interviewed to question the truthfulness of their stories, I can emphatically state that in my close to 10 years of working with egg donors, I have never known a donor to report a stroke, brain damage, a diagnosis of cancer or a near-death experience. None of my colleagues had any such stories to share, either.

Certainly and unfortunately, we are all aware of the potential of ovarian hyperstimulation as well as other possible post-cycle health issues. But please know that those of us who practice responsibly take seriously our obligation to make donor candidates aware of potential side-effects. And we trust, too, that the physicians, nurses and mental health professionals will review in detail all possible risks before a donor is allowed to proceed.

Egg Donors Treated with Compassion

Wesley J. Smith, a compensated consultant to the producers of Eggsploitation writes with hyperbole in his article “A Preventative Against Biological Colonialism” that “donors are not patients in the traditional sense … rather, they are means to an end for the real patients of the clinics … donors may be viewed as a resource to be harvested and then forgotten. Indeed, the film documents how donors quickly become out of sight and out of mind.”

And, Colson says: “If (donors) express any concerns or reservations (about the process), according to the young women interviewed in the film, they are pressured and even guilt-tripped into continuing.”

I not only find both Mr. Smith’s and Mr. Colson’s comments distorted, I question their points of reference. Most clinics, in my experience, treat donors with enormous regard and with tremendous compassion, and they are very careful to assess whether or not a donor meets the standard of “informed.”

Get Informed

What can you do if you are considering egg donation (either as a recipient or a donor)?

  • Ask questions.
  • Talk to your agency about what information is made available to donor applicants about the process.
  • Ask what the clinic’s donor education program looks like.
  • Ask about agency and clinic practices regarding the documenting of an applicant’s health history in order to assess whether or not she is an acceptable candidate.
  • If you are a donor applicant, ask if the agency or the clinic can connect you with previous donors so you can inquire about their experiences.
  • Find out from both the agency and the clinic how many previous donors may have suffered medical complications.

Be proactive in gathering information. I suspect if you are diligent in your fact-finding that both donors and recipients will find responsible programs that prioritize a donor’s well-being and take good care should she have need for follow-up.

See the film if you must (and as a side-note, consider the agenda of the organization releasing it), but please do not regard Eggsploitation as authoritative. Do not let this documentary dissuade you from a process you otherwise thought might be right for you.

Comments (1)

This is the first I have had heard of this documentary! After reading your blog and the email sent to past donors, I am truly sick to my stomach! I have completed several cycles over the past few years and my experience was NEVER like those that this documentary seems to describe. All of my physicians, nurses, psychiatrist, IPs, agency consultants, and lawyers went out of their way to ensure that I was comfortable with my decisions. I honestly believe they all reviewed the risks with me.

Being an egg donor has been the most gratifying experience of my life! I considered myself blessed because I was able to meet many of my IPs and I even continue to have contact with a few. I have seen pictures of the children and I have had numerous heartfelt conversations with extremely grateful individuals who have become parents because of egg donation.

If there were ever an opportunity, I would love to assist with any publications created to negate this documentary.

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