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Assisted Reproduction

Human Egg “Raffle” – Oh The Horror!

Some of our friends across the pond have their knickers in a twist over a free IVF and egg donor cycle being offered by Genetics & IVF Institute out of Virginia:

Fertility doctors offering a human egg as first prize in a raffle were last night accused of commercialising the miracle of life. One woman will win the chance to select their ideal donor egg based on its mother’s profession, ethnic background, hair colour, qualifications and upbringing. As part of the free IVF cycle and egg prize – worth an estimated £13,000 – the winner of a raffle in London will also be able to view childhood pictures of potential donors before choosing one.

The treatment will take place in America to get around British fertility laws. Critics have condemned the contest, intended to promote an international IVF scheme, as a ‘deplorable’ commercial venture. After the lottery was revealed on Mothering Sunday, Josephine Quintavalle, of think tank Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: ‘The capacity of the IVF industry to commodify human life reaches a new low with this latest deplorable initiative.

‘Imagine a child one day finding out that he or she came into being thanks to such a blatantly commercial initiative.’ Organisers hope the event on Wednesday will promote a programme run by the Genetics & IVF Institute in Virginia and the London Bridge Centre over here. Under a deal struck between the two clinics last year, infertile British women can be directed to the U.S. clinic where donated eggs are on offer from American university- educated women or students aged 19 to 32.

Unlike in Britain, where donors are paid no more than £250 in expenses, the American donors can get up to £6,600 a time. To promote the scheme – which is designed to get around Britain’s shortage of donor eggs and tight fertility laws – the Institute is hosting a seminar in London. According to an advert for the seminar, posted on the London Bridge Centre website, one person who attends the event will ‘win a free cycle of Donor Egg IVF’.

Mrs Quintavalle said the American women giving eggs were not donors but ‘simply getting money in exchange for body parts’. ‘The IVF clinics involved in this initiative are feeding off the colossal vulnerability of wealthy infertile women at the expense of the welfare of equally vulnerable poorer younger women; not an edifying trade-off under any circumstances, but particularly not when children are involved,’ she said. ‘Sale of human tissue, including human gametes, is prohibited across Europe. No UK clinic should be collaborating in any way whatsoever.’

But Mohamed Menabawey, director of the London Bridge Centre – which also has arrangements with clinics in Spain, the Ukraine and Crete – said infertile women face a chronic shortage of donor eggs in the UK. ‘All we are trying to is to react to changes in supply and demand and help them,’ he said. Defending the raffle, he added: ‘This is how Americans do it – in order to attract people to seminars they offer one free treatment for people to come.’ ‘I don’t see why it should go down badly at all. People should welcome the idea of having access to a high quality service.’

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said the raffle, and the tie-up with the U.S. clinic, was ‘perfectly legal’. A spokesman said: ‘It is bypassing the rules because people can be paid for egg donation in America and eggs are often donated anonymously.’

Is the promotion in poor taste? Perhaps. Is this a raffle of human body parts in which the corporate American boogeyman is exploiting the have-nots for the benefit of the wealthy? Hardly. This was nothing more than a company attempting to attract attention to a seminar and offering to a fortunate attendee the opportunity to win a free IVF cycle. In retrospect, the fury over this offer might have been avoided had Genetics & IVF Institute offered the free medical services to a patient suffering financial hardship. Then again, perhaps this faux outrage was exactly what Genetics & IVF Institute had hoped for when coming up with this promotion as the media would have ignored such an altruistic offer. Because given the media incited furor, Genetics & IVF Institute has not only garnered priceless publicity, but is likely assured of a standing-room only seminar.


4 comments for “Human Egg “Raffle” – Oh The Horror!”

  • Almamay

    Mrs Quintavalle does not represent the opinion of most people accessing IF TX or providing TX in the UK.

    I do think a raffel is in poor taste but it highlights the shortage of donor gamates in the UK.

    • Well said. The UK though is not alone in their refusal to compensate donors. The common thread among all countries that refuse to allow compensated egg donation is a dire shortage of donors. This results in wait lists as long as ten years. Exacerbating matters further is that in some countries, by the time the couple is finally at the top of the list for a donor, they no longer are eligible to be recipients because of their age. In my opinion, that is where the outrage ought to be focused.

  • Almamay

    I couldn’t agree with you more. The likes of Mrs Quintavalle campaigned to change the laws in the UK causing the shortage that we now have. Now they are looking into trying to prevent people from accessing treatment outside the UK. That will never happen as long as I’m alive as I will fight them to the end if they try.

    A very good friend of mine has been on the donor list for over three years at a busy London hospital and at the rate that they treat couples turn will come up in 17 years. She’s 37. The age limit for treatment in the UK is 51. Not hard to figure out why she is having treatment in Europe.

  • That may be some inspiring stuff. Never understood that viewpoints could be this diverse.

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