A recent overview of websites aimed at recruiting women to donate their eggs to those with fertility problems has revealed that almost a third of such sites do not follow ethical guidelines, which include not offering potential donors higher sums of money for a Gattaca baby and informing donors about the potential risks associated with the donation procedure.
About 64 percent of websites that mentioned specific donor traits said they paid more to women who had successfully donated eggs in the past, meaning donations that had led to successful births. However, according to study researcher Dr. Mark Sauer, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, "there is no evidence that they [‘proven egg donors'] are better gamete donors than women who have not previously donated or provided a success."
Study researchers are concerned that such websites are exposing donors to health risks, since paying more for "proven" egg donors encourages women to donate more often. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine, though, cautions that women shouldn't donate more than six times in their lives. The study also suggests that donor websites that engage in this kind of unethical compensation are "devaluing" donors by paying for part of their bodies rather than for their time and discomfort.
There aren't any laws in the U.S. regulating egg donation, and guidelines for the practice come from the ASRM, which suggests, for example, that donors be compensated no more than $10,000 in order to avoid unethical practices like paying more for desirable physical traits or supposed intelligence. The recent study found that 34 percent of donor websites paid donors specifically for having particularly awesome genetic material. More troubling was that 56 percent of donor sites didn't discuss short-term risks associated with egg donation, such as infection or ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which can lead to swollen ovaries and leaked chest fluid. Additionally, 77 percent of sites didn't mention any psychological or emotional risks associated with egg donations and 92 percent didn't mention any possible risk to a donor's future fertility. An unsettling 41 percent of sites also recruited women under the age of 21, which is the minimum donating age set by the ASRM.
Though researchers would like to see these sites possibly governed by stricter regulations, they also worry that if the donation racket is too regulated, the supply of eggs for infertility treatment would go way down. There probably should be more force behind what are essentially firm suggestions from the ASRM, especially with regard to the age minimum because younger people, though not exactly thoughtless, might not be far-sighted enough to seriously consider the risks associated with the procedure.