Ethical Questions on Egg Donation
The standards for donating human eggs for stem-cell research and to infertile couples are not yet clear, and ethical questions continue to complicate these issues.
The process of donating eggs demands that a woman receive drugs and undergo minor surgery. In the case of stem-cell research, the risks of these procedures are not outweighed by an immediate benefit to a donor and recipient, as they are in kidney and liver donations and egg donations to a fertility clinic. Women who donate their eggs in the name of research are being put at risk when the chances of success for cloning human embryonic stem cells are uncertain. This poses the question: when the benefit is unclear how much risk should a woman be allowed to take in the name of research?
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, U.S. fertility clinics attempt about 13,000 in-vitro fertilization procedures every year to help women become pregnant. The donated eggs are obtained by giving a woman drugs to stimulate her ovaries, causing her eggs to mature and be released. The eggs are extracted with a needle that is passed through the vaginal wall in a procedure done under general anesthesia.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) provides couples who are unable to have children naturally, with a series of alternative options. However, as with many emerging biotechnologies, there are a number of ethical and social concerns. Some notable and controversial developments in biotechnology affecting women’s reproductive rights include egg markets.
Ana Lita, Ph.D., Executive Director, Global Bioethics Initiative (GBI), New York, NY.
Kenney, NJ, McGowan, ML. “Egg donation compensation: ethical and legal challenges,” Microlegal and Bioethics 4 (September 2014): 15-24.
Norris, Michele. “Egg Donation and the Free Market,” NPR, NPR. 28 July 2005. Web. 8 June 2015.