Link to this page is http://www.thelizlibrary.org/surrogacy/risks-of-egg-donation.html
THE RISKS OF EGG DONATION
Egg harvesting is an unregulated profit-motivated industry exploiting young women. Their bodies and body parts are reproductive commodities. Young women -- especially young, beautiful, smart university women needing money -- are targeted and recruited by the surrogacy and assisted reproduction industries for their eggs. "Designer offspring." Their eggs also are recruited, traded, sold and re-sold for stem cell embryonic research. These young women aren't fully told the risks, which are substantial, and in large part still hidden and unresearched (in the sense of being authoritatively documented).
A "war on women"? Over the past 20 years, not only have family laws converged in multiple ways to remove women's children from them, but also medical science and international commerce through surrogacy and IVF and reproductive tourism simultaneously have moved to commodify and take from women their reproductive health and parts. This has gone under the radar of the major media, and has been ignored as well in those organizations ostensibly vested in fighting for "women's health" and "reproductive freedom". These same organizations seem far more interested in the reproductive "rights" of everyone but gestating and egg-producing women.
The first test-tube baby, "Louise", was in 1978, and IVF procedures to assist infertile women who were having their own eggs fertilized and then implanted in vitro began five years after that. But in the last two decades, the surrogacy industry, obtaining eggs from donors, has burgeoned, almost completely unregulated. Another industry, involving embryonic stem cell research and its derived therapies, also requires the massive quantities of eggs to be found and harvested from donor women. Almost none of the oftentimes near-hysterical defensive positive advocacy for the potential medical benefits to be derived from this research gives even passing lip service to this reality. Enormous quantities of eggs currently have to be harvested for this research, and even more somehow will have to be found in the future in the event of any successfully derived medical therapies. (Will Big Pharma be swarming down like locusts upon impoverished third-world women to remove their body parts?) All of this is at potentially substantial detriment to the women involved -- and their future offspring. And notwithstanding all the research going on, there is minimal or no tracking of the short- or long-term medical effects on these donors.
While many countries around the world have banned payment to donors (to cut down on the enticement and exploitation), others (such as the U.S.) haven't because the industry has lobbied against such regulations, fearing a significant decrease in "donors" (so much for the pretense to altruistic intent). This notwithstanding, in general the sums paid -- not for "body parts" but for "time and inconvenience" -- may seem substantial to cash-strapped young students, but nevertheless are paltry given the medical risks undertaken by these girls (and the wealth of many of the recipients, not to mention the high profits in the industry). Donors also are typically recruited with rosy pictures painted of how they are helping an infertile couple, but rarely told when excess "harvest" may be used without their permission (or additional payment) for other couples or sold to the stem cell research industry.
Never mind the issues involving the embryos, created, then sometimes implanted, sometimes selectively aborted, sometimes frozen and then destroyed, and sometimes sold for cloning and stem-cell research. Never mind all of the horrendously exploitative violations of motherhood inherent in gestational surrogacy. Harvesting ova -- that ostensibly simple, benign, insignificant and euphemistically-described part of these processes, popularly called by the charitable-sounding moniker "egg donation" -- has been proved to be dangerous to young women. And it's pointlessly dangerous, since these women are not medical patients, and nothing about the risks they are being subjected to involves medical necessity. They are not donating organs desperately needed for someone's life or functional health. It is not akin to donating blood. Or sperm (ten minutes culminating in ejaculating into a cup.) These unpleasant facts largely are ignored in the profit-motivated "regenerative medical science" research as well as the international IVF and surrogacy industries.
For the young women involved, there is little or no medical followup. Instead there is cajoling and emotional and psychological coercion and propaganda. "You're doing such a generous thing." A minimizing and downplaying of the risks. Pollyanna positivism. Enticement with money. Even "referral payments" for bringing in other women. Trendy peer-approved influence. Exploitation of those in desperate need of a little money. Often the egg donors are not made fully aware that if the couple, clinic, physician or their own bodies "cancel the cycle", they will be paid only a nominal sum for their trouble. One woman interviewed by Jennifer Lahl whose "cycle" was canceled by the clinic prior to completion without explanation, had been hyper-stimulated and was left on her own to deal with the medical repercussions of having nearly two-dozen unretrieved eggs in her unnaturally grotesquely swollen ovaries. (From a contract standpoint, this makes it pretty obvious that the payment is for desired ova -- not time, risk or inconvenience. Also that these young women are being induced to enter into what are essentially non-negotiated adhesion contracts.)
Unlike "gestational surrogates", egg donors are more typically younger women, who frequently have not borne their own children, and who may have no real appreciation for what they are getting themselves into or how medical repercussions might affect their own futures. (Sure, there are lots of women who tout how wonderful it has been for them to do both -- although with egg donation, anyone can make an unverified or self-serving claim, such as those women making fortunes running fertility businesses. In a world with billions of people, you can find all kinds. There are women who tout the joys of being sexual masochists or living in polygamous marriages, and women in third-world countries who advocate for FGM. Misery also loves company. Etc.)
There has been no record-keeping systematically monitoring the effects of the egg harvesting on donors or to their long-term health (or of their own future children). Thus, there is no truly informed consent, and in turn no real voluntary choice. The women and their eggs are commodities. Healthy young women are pumped full of dangerous system-altering drugs and hormones (e.g. Lupron, Centrotide, FSH, Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, Follistim, Menopur, Gonal-f, Luveris, Ganirelix, Pergonal), subjected to painful and potentially dangerous surgery, used as egg factories, and then sent on their way. The egg donor is not the patient (or the paying customer) but the retail inventory. More and more of those who have been seriously injured are coming forward to say "Don't do it; don't let your daughters do it". No amount of money is worth risking your health and your future. Ova donation is in no way comparable to or the counterpart of sperm donation.
Egg harvesting can cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and numerous other medical maladies, such as pulmonary complications, fluid imbalances, stroke, bowel and bladder perforation, and all the rest of the potential complications that can arise from injecting unnecessary (and often unregulated) drugs and hormones into the body, as well as undergoing unnecessary surgery. That's what we know about, mostly accidentally and mostly on women subjected to these procedures in connection with treating their own infertility. We have no good data on the long-term effects on previously healthy donors. In addition, the data we do have on infertile women who undergo IVF is data on women who have very different health backgrounds (e.g. infertile ovaries in older women being stimulated versus these same drugs in even higher doses being used on perfectly fertile young women). The former also frequently become pregnant, which may counter some of the long-term medical and hormonal effects of the process. In addition, women typically receiving IVF treatment are patients who are carefully monitored, and they rarely are being overstimulated to retrieve far more eggs than they can possibly use. Egg donors, by contrast, are selling a commodity. More is better. Their bodies are being harvested. Used for profit. With little or no concern for their health or their futures.
Some good video clips are available at http://www.linesthatdivide.com/. Obfuscation, euphemisms, and outright lies are the order of the day. You also can find research at the liz library surrogacy page.
Prospective donors also should read up on all the information they can obtain from Jennifer Lahl, of "Eggsploitation". Listen to Jennifer on the Justice Hour Radio Show on this subject: Lahl.wma or Lahl.mp3 Jennifer Lahl, founder and President of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, discusses ova "donation" and the exploitation of women. http://www.eggsploitation.com.
Very few feminists in national organizations are up-to-date on or working to expose these issues, which have become "untouchables"
because of their relationship on the edges to the abortion
debates as well as lesbian and gay men's demands for reproductive marriage and family parenthood "rights". One exception is
Kathy Sloan of N.O.W., but the board of directors of that organization
appears to be divided and conflicted, lest publicizing the issues involved in egg harvesting and gestational surrogacy
negatively impact LGBT family law lobbying, or
align those who otherwise would be against surrogacy, egg donation and the exploitation of women as reproductive commodities
on the same side as the pro-life anti-abortion crowd. Terrible.
It will only get worse. The fertility industries now are advertising to sell frozen left-over (or newly anonymously created -- it's impossible to tell) embryos. PDF Women in India and elsewhere are being warehoused as surrogates and donors. There is no question in my mind that all of it should be outlawed. -- liz
Comments from a few of the women interviewed by Jennifer Lahl:
"And I'm talking to the woman who set up the whole egg brokerage deal, and she said 'It sounds like we're going to have to send you a drop-cycle check' -- which means you didn't quite manage to produce what you were asked to produce. So we're just going to send you $750 and we're just going to call it good.' And I said -- because this is how disoriented and out-of-it I was -- 'I don't see why I can't do it still.' I'd been in the hospital for almost four weeks at that point. I didn't know it, but I couldn't move my left side. And I also didn't know it, but I wasn't a good option as an egg donor, because I didn't have a clean bill of health." -- Eggsploitation, by Jennifer Lahl
"What was unknown after the surgery was that the doctor had punctured an artery during the harvesting. When I awoke from the anesthesia I became weak, nauseous and dizzy. I was scheduled to catch a plane that afternoon, to return home. They told me that I looked good and was ready to go... they thought the anesthesia was causing my low blood pressure. Then I developed pain and difficulty breathing... the doctor and nurse persisted in trying to get me to leave... The pain in my belly became unbearable and I became convinced that I was bleeding internally... after 8 hours... they finally began to realize that something was terribly wrong... The $6500 I was given has long evaporated into medical treatments for multiple late complications caused by this incident..." -- Eggsploitation, by Jennifer Lahl
"Many are improperly informed about the risks of the egg harvesting process. Verbally I was told that the risk was virtually non-existent and that studies have not linked the procedure to cancer and infertility. I should have been told that there were not enough studies or long-term follow-up to determine risk... Even the tiniest risk of complication needs to be taken seriously when dealing with perfectly health young women who have no need to undergo a potentially life-threatening procedure." -- Eggsploitation, by Jennifer Lahl
"In 2002 I was 29 and all-but-dissertation for a Ph.D. in biology... making about $800 a month... For years I had seen ads advertising for egg donors... Money was my primary reason for selling my eggs but my on-line research left me with a positive impression of the process: that I would be helping others, that the process involved a relatively low time commitment... that it was safe... It was flattering to be selected... The list of risks was lengthy but presented as though they were remote... A little more than a week after the retrieval, I awoke with a searing pain in my abdomen... over the next three days my abdomen swelled, I was delerious with pain and fever... I couldn't stop vomiting...
of Women's Human Rights in Third Party Reproduction
by Kathleen Sloan
Faith Haugh, world's best baby egg donor, succumbs to liver cancer at age 42 12/12 Herald Sun
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