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Controversial Advertisement Soliciting Egg Donors And Surrogates

Some are taking understandable umbrage at this advertisement from Philadelphia surrogacy and egg donation agency. Setting aside the controversy over the use of the word “job”, my question is whether this agency is actually characterizing these donors and surrogates as employees so as to entitle them to receive health insurance? This is a tactic that has been used in the past by some agencies and it raises a host of legal and ethical issues. Here is the original article:

A Philadelphia company’s appeal for egg donors and surrogate mothers is raising eyebrows. An e-mail from Surrogate Services International reads “In this economy and particularly around the holiday season one would think a local business would not have any trouble filling job openings.” It goes on to describe “well paid, part-time positions” as egg donors and pregnancy surrogates.

“I thought it was the most outrageous,” says bioethicist Dr. Art Caplan. “What they are saying is that having a baby is the same as working at the perfume counter at Macy’s or Bloomingdales for a part-time job. I don’t know what planet these people are operating on but I don’t think it is one that is distinguished by its ethics. These are major decisions and they shouldn’t be treated in this trivial way”

“It is absolutely a job,” responds Surrogate Services International president P.J. Henderson. “It’s a job with real responsibilities. It is a job.” Dr. Jackie Gutmann is a reproductive endocrinologist not affiliated with Henderson’s company. In general, she says donors or surrogates must be young, healthy, aware of all possible health risks and prepared for the commitment.

She says she doesn’t describe egg donation or surrogate mother as a “job”. “We’re looking for women who are interested in helping another woman or couple build a family,” she explains. Henderson’s website lists egg donors and surrogates under employment opportunities. Egg donors are offered up to $7,000, surrogates as much as $35,000.

Henderson says she considers them jobs because of the tremendous responsibility involved, both physical and emotional. She says she believes donors are giving families a gift which she says is why she mentioned the holidays in her e-mail, because that’s when potential donors are more likely to respond. “We’ve never gotten poor stupid women who are being taken advantage of. These women are fully aware of the situations, and understand what they are getting in to, why they’re doing it,” she adds.


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