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Do You Want My Eggs?
a blog by liz
Hi Liz, I'm thinking of having a hysterectomy, if I did would you want my eggs?
I received this text message, out of the blue, about a month ago. Every
time I’ve tried to write about it, I stall.
The text was from a work colleague who suffers terribly from endometriosis. After seven months of near constant pain she had come to the conclusion that a hysterectomy was her only option. We'd talked about her condition and she is one of the few people I work with who I’ve told, in vague terms, about our difficulties conceiving.
The thing is, as far as I know, I don't need donated eggs.
But what if I did?
The husband and I discussed the hypothetical situation and sort of came to the conclusion that, should I need an egg donor, I would rather use someone I didn't know at all, so that I wouldn't be constantly searching my child's face or character for some remnant of the donor.
However, should I need eggs (from a stranger) there’s a three-year wait in the U.K. for donor eggs. That’s three years at a time when, for most of us, even with donated eggs, time is of the essence.
I heard about a U.S.-based clinic (East Coast Fertility) who was over in London in October for The Fertility Show. The clinic was consulting with British women who are considering going abroad to obtain eggs – circumnavigating both the waiting list and the globe.
I have to admit my first reaction was one of extreme skepticism. In the U.K., you can’t “buy” another woman’s eggs, a restriction I approve of because I’d hope that anyone donating their eggs would be doing it because they want to, not because they have no alternative. So my first thought was who’s donating the eggs and how much are they getting paid?
Rather than jumping to conclusions, I got in touch and found out the donors are paid. Now, I’m not naive enough to believe that they don’t make any money out of the system but, I was surprised to find out they really do have other motives. In the words of one of the donors, “After I had babies of my own, I kind of felt that everyone deserves to have a baby. It wasn't for the money."
A donor has to take all the drugs and have all the invasive treatments that come with IVF, but the difference is they have no hope of a child at the end. They face the same health risks associated with IVF (such as ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome), but they don’t have the need, hope, desire of a classic IVF patient.
I wondered if a 20-year old donor might, in ten years, find herself in the same position as many of us? Would she be glad that she gave another woman a chance of a baby? Or would she regret that she may have a biological child that she’ll never mother? Would she find herself inspecting every toddler trying to see her own features in their face?
And I wondered if the roles were reversed, would I donate my eggs?
The most compelling argument for donating eggs came from another woman I met recently. In order to fund her own treatment, her IVF was subsidized by egg sharing. On her final attempt, only four eggs were harvested. She was told they were pretty poor quality and it was unlikely they would amount to anything. She got two implanted and two went to the woman who needed them. The donor went on to have twins; the recipient nothing.
Hearing the donor talk, it was clear that she was still wracked with guilt that she had succeeded where the woman financing the lion’s share of her treatment hadn’t. How she would have felt if the success had been reversed is debatable, but I got the impression that donating was about more than just funding her treatment. It was also the opportunity to help someone also facing infertility.
There’s no denying egg donation raises some pretty tricky ethical questions and ones that I certainly can’t begin to answer. What do you think about it?
And as for my work colleague, I thanked her and explained that I didn’t need eggs. But I will always remember her text (!) as one of the most touching, surprising, generous and heartbreaking offers I’ve ever had.