The Risk of Eggsploitation


Recently, the Center for Bioethics and Culture stirred up public debate with its documentary “Eggsploitation: the infertility industry has a dirty little secret” released in 2010. The Alliance for Humane Biotechnology followed up with a call for more research on the dangers of egg donation. The question at hand: “What are the effects of ovarian hyper-stimulation?”

Immediate effects seem common enough: nausea, vomiting, bloating, shortness of breath, blood clots. Donors also record infertility and organ failure. However, it is the long-term effects that cause consternation. Over a dozen women have come forward to voice their concerns over a possible correlation between ovarian hyper-stimulation and life-threatening conditions – such as ovarian, colon and liver cancer; strokes and heart attacks.

Advocates for and against egg-donation agree that potential egg donors should be pro-active about gathering information. Amy Demma, founder of Prospective Families, a group that supports egg donation and IVF treatments, writes: “What can you do if you are considering egg donation (either as a recipient or a donor)? Ask questions.”

But it is the lack of answers that disturbs. The uncertainty of the risk leaves the field open to a war of persuasion. There are no ‘informed choices’ for women to make. On the one side, the egg-donor industry encourages women to take the risk through monetary rewards, and calls for altruism. As Ms. Demma urges: “please do not let this documentary [Eggsploitation] dissuade you from a process you otherwise thought might be right for you.” On the other, advocacy groups with concerns over contemporary bio-ethics urge women to reconsider the risk. The wild west of drugs and technology holds too many potential calamities for us to rush across the frontiers blindly.

And what is it that we are looking for in this wild west techno-world? Science holds out the promise of human bodies free from bodily failings. But every promise should come with a warning. How many more exotic diseases and complications do we create as we run away from the old ones? Potential egg donors should protect their bodies and just say no.