I’ve been trying to think of various (legal) ways to make some fast cash, and a recent conversation led me to a compelling prospect: egg donation. Heck, I’m not using my eggs. Why not sell them to someone who’s willing to pay top dollar for them? It’s a free market, right? People and organizations will pay thousands for an egg donor, I was told recently. But before seriously considering becoming a donor, I did some research about the egg donation process. The following are some benefits and risks.
The money issue is a major benefit to egg donors. Some organizations have programs that will pay up to $10,000 for a viable egg donor, although the average program seems to compensate about $5,000. Some companies, such as The Egg Donor Program in Studio City, Calif., shower donors with lavish gifts like iPods, flowers, jewelry and gift cards. Many pay for travel expenses and doctor appointments.
But perhaps the most rewarding benefit of egg donation does not affect the donor directly at all. Many couples cannot have children on their own. Some are same-sex couples; some are simply infertile, through no fault of their own. They want to start families, but do not have the means to do so. Eventually, they might turn to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproduction programs for help. For 30 years, thousands of American families have been formed thanks to assisted reproduction, according to a recent Los Angeles Times article by Gregory Pence.
However, the process, despite what some programs say on their Web sites, involves discomfort and pain for the donor, according to a 2007 New Scientist magazine article by Jennifer Swift. The process lasts for a few months (generally about two to three), and the donor must go on regular (sometimes weekly) doctor visits. Donors are treated with hormones as part of an IVF process to stimulate their ovaries. So, according to Swift, they are at risk for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, kidney failure, thrombosis and even death.
Let’s not forget that after the donation, there could quite possibly be children out there with the donor’s genetic code. And those children could become curious as to who their genetic relations are, and may come looking for their genetic mother.
When I say children, I mean children. Donors shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking that only one child will come of a one-time donation. The IVF process stimulates the ovaries to produce many eggs, making the chance of a successful pregnancy in the receiving party that much higher.
And if the donor ever plans to have children of her own one day, she may have to tell them of their possible unknown sibling. The Donor Sibling Registry, founded in 2000, is a non-profit organization that helps individuals conceived as a result of sperm, egg or embryo donation contact others with whom they “share genetic ties,” according to the organization’s Web site.
The site also mentions that “the donor conception industry is largely a for-profit enterprise, and after the ‘product’ has been purchased, most doctors, clinics and cryobanks have not engaged in discussions and activities acknowledging the humanity and rights of the donor-conceived.”
But even before a woman becomes a donor, she will most likely go through a comprehensive screening process. Many legitimate donor programs screen potential donors for disease, psychological problems and more. Many programs also require the donor’s family medical history. So, if the potential donor has a grandmother with Alzheimer’s or a father with heart disease, she may not be a viable candidate.
Before I decide to become a donor, I’m going to have a long discussion with my doctor. But, for now, in light of all of this information, I think I’ll just continue my search for a new job.
Whitney Diaz is a journalism senior and a Mustang Daily reporter and copy editor.