There is no doubt that egg donation has made parenthood possible for many couples that otherwise could not have children. Bringing a child’s smile and laughter into the houses of people who dreamed of offspring but lacked the physical possibilities because of infertility is a breakthrough in medicine. All this makes it somewhat of a miracle made possible by good altruistic donors and human made technology. But is it all that flawless? Is the fertility journey using donor eggs free from moral and ethical issues of IVF? What is IVF ethics?
We all know nothing is that simple and everybody deciding to be an egg donor or an egg recipient should know about most common moral and ethical issues of IVF which we will walk you through below.
IVF ethical issues – altruism or business?
First of all, let’s focus on the supposed total altruism of the whole procedure. Almost all of the egg donation ads offer the chance to change people’s life by fulfilling their dreams about a child… and they also offer money for donating eggs. The amount usually ranges from $4,000 to $10,000 but you can find ads offering even $100,000. You’re probably thinking why go with the $4,000 if there are offers giving $60,000 or $80,000. The more lucrative offers are special and you might not meet the specific requirements like race, university degree or your GPA (Grade Point Average). In fact, this does not look good at all and not at all altruistic. Do people who buy themselves a child for $100,000 even deserve and do they even should have a child? They offer this kind amount of money for making sure the donor is a supermodel with high IQ and a degree, they want a certain skin colour, hair and eye colour. It isn’t the same thing as just wanting a child. When people decide to have a child, they decide to have a human baby, not a previously designed superhuman.
Parents who don’t use egg donation also have some expectations of course. Perhaps the dad would want a boy who plays sports well or the mother would like a girl with science skills and so on but this isn’t the same thing as paying money to raise the chance of these expectations to be fulfilled.
The point is the child isn’t even born yet and they already have requirements and expectations and they literally expect to have exactly what they want by spending money. This isn’t loving.
Who would want to be a child who was bought for $100,000 and start thinking “If they just paid $4,000 like the rest of them…would I be worse or something? Less deserving of their love?”
This may sound a bit harsh but those are just the things that come to mind when you really start thinking about donor baby ethics.
Buying $100,000 worth eggs from a donor does not mean that the child won’t be loved and cared for. However, it shows that perhaps mixing money with medical donations is not the greatest idea in the world. There should be restrictions or even egg donations with no fee like in Canada or Australia where all donations must be voluntary and free of monetary compensation. We should at least restrict the fee to a more reasonable nonnegotiable, symbolic sum. This has, so far, worked well in Australia where egg donors are not anonymous and are not compensated. However, the situation for Australian egg recipients has recently become very difficult. Read more about egg donation problems in Australia.
Then there is also the “autonomy” dilemma. Is a young woman in college who pays tuition able to make an autonomous decision when she is offered the minimum $4,000 for donating her eggs?
Let’s also take under consideration the fact that she may not be fully aware about the future implications because those have not been really studied yet. She will probably take the money and the risk.
When these huge amounts of money are at stake, altruism and helping is just the background and the business is in the foreground. It can be easily seen that someone, some groups would take advantage of such situations.
Donor health – IVF ethics
Secondly, we should take a moment to think about the donor’s health. Many services claim that there is almost no monitoring on the well-being of donors after the procedures. Clinics are not required to monitor the donors’ health weeks, months and years after the procedure so we really don’t know what impact the egg retrieval has on the donors in the long run. This mainly concerns the ovulation enhancing drugs and how they impact the donor. There are clinical reports showing that the frequency of ovarian cancer linked with the ovarian stimulation increases. There are also documented cases of hyperstimulation syndrome, lacerations, ovarian trauma, infection, infertility, and lacerations. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine believes that further research and studies are needed in this field.
Some studies show also that women who decide to donate eggs for financial reasons are more likely to suffer emotionally and regret their decision than women with altruistic motivations. So there are also some psychological concerns. EggDonationFriends believe and advocate that all egg donors should receive top patient care not matter if they are altruistic or not. Oocyte donors should be fully aware of the possible complications. The medicine should not help one individual by putting another one’s health at risk.
Moral and ethical issues of IVF – what about the recipient?
The ethical dilemmas do not only refer to the donor. The egg recipient also has to take into consideration moral an ethical issues of IVF and make a decision she and her partner will not regret. The most common dilemma is about donor baby ethics – if you should or should not tell your child about their origins. Almost all specialists agree that telling your child about their origins is highly recommended. If your child finds out the truth on their own, your trust levels would drop badly. Also telling your child about their origins is believed to be the right and ethical thing to do. There are some exceptions, however, when not telling them will benefit the child.
Mothers are also concerned with the genetic issues associated with the appearance of the child. They wonder if they will look like them and will people notice and ask insensitive questions like “Your boy doesn’t really look like you, does he? You’re sure he’s yours?” These can often be jokes but they can certainly make you feel uncomfortable. Your donor egg baby may indeed not look like you, have different eye colour or a different nose but children tend to pick up everything else from the parents like types of laugh or smile, mannerisms.
Those are issues which egg recipients do not pick up straight from the start and begin to think about when they have already started the treatment. Should psychological evaluations for oocyte recipients be obligatory so nobody could fall a victim of a spontaneous decision, not only for the good of the recipient but for the good of the children?
Never too late?
When you look up IVF and egg donations on the Internet, you will easily find advertisements saying that even 50-year-old women can still be mothers. Menopause? No worries – you pay, you gain. It is of course hard to say but maybe women who cannot have babies naturally because of the advanced age shouldn’t have babies. It again sounds harsh but the truth is an older body is not well fitted to carry and give birth to a baby without having some negative impact on the mother’s health. The IVF ethics in this case however go beyond health problems.
One thing that was often disregarded was the simple fact that if a 50-year-old woman gave birth to a child, the same woman would be 60 years old when the child is at the age of 10. Will she be fit enough to take care of them? It’s hard to say in this case. However, there are cases that are downright scary!
Like the case that can be found on the website of an infertility treatment centre in India where a 69-year-old woman gave birth using egg donation. This woman will be 80 years old when her child turns 10. Miracle or not this may be crossing the line. It is not that we necessarily think the mother is the guilty one here. The mother’s great desire to have a child probably overwhelmed her mind and she was not thinking clearly and the clinic’s responsibility was to make a more insightful psychological evaluation and reason with her and explain she will cause the child pain if she decides for treatment. That is why the psychological evaluations could be a smart solution especially for a lot older women.
Let’s not turn egg donation into eggsploitation
Just as it was said in the beginning of this article, there is no doubt that egg donating can and does a lot of good. However, there are people who will just see the financial opportunity and corrupt something that was designed to help others and turn it into a source of profit. We should definitively go into the “fee free” and voluntary egg donation direction so there is no doubt we are helping infertile couples not some opportunist who just wants to make money off it. And last but not least, we need more awareness and monitoring the egg donors’ health and the children born from egg donation.
So until the egg donation is really a donation not a paid for service we should all just be cautious and act according to our own conscience.