Is It Ethical to Share Eggs? Is It a Gift or a Commodity?

The catholic church sees IVF as a violation of the moral law because it involves separating sex from the procreation of life. Since the birth of the first “test-tube baby” in 1978 in America, millions have been born using IVF. 

There are various reasons why women may want to donate their eggs. Some do it to help infertile couples have children, while others do it for financial compensation. Whatever the reason, the egg donation process must be conducted ethically.

What Is Egg Donation?

Egg donation or sharing is when a woman gives one or more of her eggs to another person. The recipient may be an infertile couple who wants to have a baby, or she may be a woman who wants to use the donor’s eggs to get pregnant herself.

In most cases, the egg donor and recipient will not know each other. The donation process is usually done through an agency that matches donors with recipients.

The process involves the following procedures:

  • The donor undergoes a medical and psychological evaluation to ensure she is healthy and has no hereditary disorders that could be passed on to the child.
  • The donor takes medication to stimulate her ovaries to produce multiple eggs.
  • The eggs are retrieved from the donor’s body through a minor surgical procedure.
  • The eggs are fertilized with the recipient’s partner’s sperm or donor sperm.
  • The fertilized eggs are implanted in the recipient’s uterus.
  • The recipient will become pregnant and carry the baby to term if all goes well.

Egg donation is a personal decision, and ensuring that all parties are comfortable with the arrangement is essential. Donors should fully understand the potential risks and side effects of the egg donation process and be given adequate information about the recipients.

Recipients should also be fully informed about the egg donation process and the risks involved. They should understand that there is a chance that the donor’s eggs may not be compatible with their own reproductive system and that they may not be able to have a baby using the donated eggs.

The frozen embryo transfer success rate for 35 years old and younger is about 60% per embryo transfer, while over 40 women have a 20% pregnancy rate per embryo transfer.

Ethical Issues Surrounding Egg Sharing

There are ethical issues surrounding egg donation, particularly if the eggs are donated to a couple who cannot get pregnant on their own.

1. Informed Consent

One of the controversies of egg donation is that often, the donors are not fully informed of the risks involved in the procedure. This can lead to donors feeling misled or taken advantage of if they later experience health complications or cannot have children themselves.

Both the donor and recipient must give their full informed consent before going ahead with any egg donation arrangement. The donor should be made aware of all the potential risks and side effects of the egg donation process and their right to withdraw from the arrangement at any time.

2. Commodification of Eggs

Another ethical concern is the commodification of eggs. This happens when eggs are seen as a commodity to be bought and sold rather than a gift to be given freely.

Others argue that there will come a time when only the rich can afford to buy eggs, which would create a two-tiered system where the wealthy can have children and the poor cannot.

Donors should ensure they are comfortable with the arrangement and that their eggs are not being bought and sold like a commodity.

However, others see that being compensated as an egg donor is not the same as commodification, as long as the donor is fully informed of the risks and gives their consent.

3. Rights of the Child

There are also some ethical concerns about the rights of the child born as a result of egg donation. For example, what if the child later wants information about their biological parents?

What if the child wants to have a relationship with their biological father or mother? What if the donor and recipient disagree about how to raise the child?

These are all possible scenarios that could arise after egg donation. So, everyone involved during this procedure should get counselling from experts to help make sure that the priority is always in the child’s best interest.

4. Exploitation of Donors

There is also a concern that egg donors may be exploited, particularly if they don’t fully understand the risks involved in the procedure. This may make donors feel like they have been taken advantage of or misled.

All parties involved in an egg donation arrangement must give their full informed consent before proceeding with the procedure. This includes ensuring that the donor is fully aware of all the potential risks and side effects of the egg donation process.

In recent news published by an Indian online publication (The Quint World) in early June this year, a 16-year-old girl from Erode, India, was forced by her family to sell her eggs eight times in five years to a private hospital.

5. Emotional Distress

Egg donation can be an emotionally demanding experience for both the donor and the recipient. The donor may feel pressured to donate her eggs, and she may have concerns about how the child will be raised.

The recipient may also experience various emotions, from excitement and happiness to anxiety and sadness. All parties involved should be prepared for the emotional challenges that may arise during and after the egg donation process.

6. Health Risks

A number of potential risks and side effects associated with egg donation can arise for both the donor and the recipient. These include:

  • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots

Egg donation involves certain procedures that may carry a risk of infection, bleeding, or blood clots. In addition, the hormones used to stimulate the ovaries can sometimes cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) – a condition that can be potentially dangerous.

OHSS symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight gain
  • Shortness of breath

OHSS can require hospitalization, so both the donor and the recipient must be aware of the risks involved in egg donation before proceeding.

Also, the fertility treatment facility or egg donation bank must follow the frozen embryo transfer protocol so that the health of the mother and child are not compromised in any way.

The Bottom Line

While there are ethical issues regarding egg donation or sharing, it is a personal decision. The most important thing is that the donor, recipient, and everyone involved in this procedure fully understands the possible risks and side effects before proceeding.

Also, compensation may not be a bad idea as long as everybody agrees with certain arrangements and nobody is forced to do so. Ultimately, egg donation facilities should ensure that they take care of the donor and recipient, as well as the child that may be born from this procedure.