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Important information on human egg donation laws

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11th December 2006

Please find attached the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship response to the Human Fertilisation and Embyrology Authority (HFEA) consultation on Egg Donation.  There is a pressing need to stand up for the biblical principle of the sanctity of life at this time in our Nation and for mankind not to usurp the role of our Creator God in experimenting and creating life for a utilitarian purpose. The deadline for the consultation was Friday 8th December, but please take the time to write into the HFEA with your comments as this is the way to increase pressure on them. The address to email is

As the HFEA push for Egg Donation to be increased, we need to inform people of the dangers, both medically and ethically, of egg donation.  Please also find below the Hands Off Our Ovaries newsletter with up to date news on this most important issue.

You may also have seen The Sunday Telegraph yesterday with leaked news laying out reform proposals for the HFE Act that will appear at the end of this week.  See   

Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics has made the following comment on this issue:-

The proposals in relationship to the creation of animal/human hybrid embryos are particularly worrying because licence applications have been with the HFEA since the beginning of November and we believe the responses will now be rushed through and will be in favour.

The Government will propose that the creation of hybrid and chimera embryos in vitro should not be allowed, but the law will contain a power enabling regulators to set our circumstances in which the creation of hybrid and chimera embryos may be allowed under licence, for research purposes only.

Currently there are two licence applications to use animal eggs, fused with human tissue, for research purposes (King’s College (Dr Stephen Minger and Newcastle University  (Dr Lyle Armstrong).  Prof Wilmut is also expected to make application as well.  On the HFEA website it is stated that they will reach a decision on these applications in January.  It goes without saying the the current Govt is very keen to lead the world in stem cell research, and these proposals are meant to further that ambition.

A recent precedent.  Recently the HFEA stated in a public consultation document on egg donation, that they had issued a licence for egg-sharing for research, even though they had not concluded their public consultation on the issue at stake.  They argued that they have to consider applications when they are received and cannot delay response simply because they are engaged in a public consultation on the matter.  In this instance they also added that ‘If, after due consideration, the Authority decides that egg sharing for research is not appropriate, it will be possible for the Licence Committee to review their decision for the egg sharing licence based on the new policy’.  A classic piece of HFEA absurdity.

I believe they will use the same rationale to grant in January the licences applied.

Andrea Minichiello Williams

LCF Public Policy Officer

0771 2591164

HandsOffOurOvaries Newsletter, December 2006

December 1, 2006,


HANDSOFF AT THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH (23 November 2006): HandsOff Chair, Diane Beeson, was one of four panelists at a University of Edinburgh-sponsored debate exploring the controversial issues of egg donation for medical research. The other panelists, included Donna Dickenson, Professor of Medical Ethics and Humanities at Birkbeck College, London, who was also critical of exposing women to the risks of the procedure. Harry Griffin, Director of Roslin Institute, Edinburgh and Daniel Brison, Scientific Director, Department of Reproductive Medicine, St. Mary's Hospital in Manchester, discussed the significance of egg donation for the advancement of science. Dr. Dickenson opened the discussion with a detailed description of the invasiveness of the process of ovarian hyperstimulation and raised issues of commercialization and commodification of women's bodies. Dr. Griffin acknowledged that there was much research that scientists could do without the necessity of using human eggs, while Dr. Brison argued that although egg donation is "time-consuming, costly and could pose health risks...without it, it is doubtful that crucial biomedical research into diseases like Parkinson's, diabetes and multiple sclerosis can continue." Nevertheless, Dr. Brison agreed that the movement toward minimal stimulation IVF is in the interests of women. Dr. Beeson placed the issue of hormonal stimulation of women for egg harvesting in the historical context of the abuses of women with other hormones. This includes both the DES (diethylstilbesterol) disaster, and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopausal women. Between five and ten million women were exposed before DES became linked to a virulent form of vaginal cancer, and it was also decades before the long-term risks of HRT were documented. She pointed out that Louise Brown was not a product of ovarian hyperstimulation, but rather of natural cycle IVF and spoke in support of the HandsOff call for a moratorium on egg donation for research until more adequate information on its risks to donors can be provided. The event, held at Our Dynamic Earth, on November 23rd, was attended by about ninety members of the public who also participated in the discussion with questions and comments.


DAILY MAIL/EVENING STANDARD, (UK), WOMAN SELLS "EGGS" ON INTERNET TO PAY OFF £15,000 CREDIT CARD DEBTS (1st November 2006): A British woman, Alexandra Saunders, a 26-year-old, who already has three jobs to try and pay off her debts, posted her details on an American website after reading about the huge amount that can be made in a woman's magazine. It is illegal for a woman to sell her eggs within the UK but egg donation is big business in the US where childless couples pay up to £20,000 in exchange the eggs of a young healthy woman. Critics warned that many young women were unaware of the potential serious health risks of donating eggs. Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: 'The sort of money on offer in the US to egg donors is extremely tempting to some but I think at the very least women should be well informed about the risks. Egg donation is not like sperm donation. Women's eggs have to be harvested and the procedure can cause infertility, illness and even death. That is why people in the US pay such high prices for eggs because of the dangers involved. A young woman may think that getting £20,000 for her eggs is worth the risk. But then she might want children at 30 and find out she can't have them. Ironically, she then may have to pay the same amount for someone else's eggs.'



NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE, CLONING IS A WOMEN'S ISSUE (October 25, 2006): Hands Off Our Ovaries is featured in this article, which is described as a non-partisan group with an international reach, calling for "a moratorium on egg extraction for research purposes until such time as global discourse and scientific research yields information sufficient to establish adequate informed consent". Launched on International Women's Day in March, the article quotes Jennifer Lahl as a spokesperson for the organisation, which aims to unite all women, whether pro-life, pro-choice, conservative or liberal, and serve as a wake-up call for those who have never thought through the implications of egg donation. The article points out that IVF is a largely unregulated industry worth an estimated $38 million which pays little attention to the potential long-term harm from hyperstimulation. It cites two bioethicists from Stanford who declared last year in an article in Science magazine that at a minimum women should be made aware both that the risks include infertility and even death and that their "donations," in the case of embryonic-stem-cell research and cloning, may never actually contribute to a cure for anything. It also describes an advertisement which aired in Saint Louis during game four of the World Series, which aimed to counter the hype around cloning and for the first time enable Missourians to hear about the dangers of egg donation in the embryonic-stem-cell-research debate. Patricia Heaton, best known for playing Ray Romano's wife on Everybody Loves Raymond, and a spokesperson for Feminists for Life, says in the ad, "Amendment 2 [to the state constitution] actually makes it a constitutional right for fertility clinics to pay women for eggs. Low-income women will be seduced by big checks and extracting donor eggs is an extremely complicated, dangerous, and painful procedure."


WE NEED A PRO-WOMAN STEM CELL RESEARCH, HUMAN CLONING POLICY (November 4, 2006): The risks involved in young women providing fresh eggs for cloning research have been overlooked in the cloning debate, writes Marcy Darnovsky, associate executive director of the pro-choice public interest group, the Center for Genetics and Society. But she notes that some women's health advocates and policy makers are beginning to grapple seriously with the issue of egg procurement for research. They are asking hard questions about how women can meaningfully consent to egg retrieval when there is so little data about the safety of the procedure. Egg retrieval involves giving a woman hormones to first "shut down" and then "over-stimulate" her ovaries, followed by surgical extraction of multiple eggs under general anesthesia. Though the procedure is widely used in fertility clinics, data about both its short-term and long-term risks are grossly inadequate. Serious adverse reactions, even several deaths, have been reported. Protection for women is particularly important since enormous numbers of eggs are needed for cloning research. The "cloning race" is leading to exaggerations about how useful cloning will be. It is now recognised that the claim that cloning will lead to cures is far-fetched and that it is likely to be an indirect research tool only. Much more scrutiny is necessary to prevent a repeat of the fiasco in Korea where cloning results were fabricated and more than 13 percent of the 119 South Korean women who provided eggs for Hwang's failed cloning efforts experienced reactions severe enough that they needed to be hospitalized.



SCOTSMAN, UK, EGGS ON SALE (5 November, 2006): Doctors at the Glasgow Centre for Reproductive Medicine, Scotland's only private fertility clinic, have been criticized for putting the eggs of younger women on sale to older women for the first time in Scotland. The scheme has been condemned for bypassing UK laws banning the sale of eggs because older women buy the eggs by paying £3,000 [US $5,700] for the donor's treatment. It has been branded by Professor Kenyon Mason a way of "getting around the law". In contrast, a spokesperson for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority dismissed criticism about the illegality of the practice, which demonstrates their complacent approach to the dangers of exploitation and little understanding of the need to protect women with is the basis of the ban on selling eggs. The article concludes with information about the dangers of the egg retrieval process including rupture of the ovaries and death and points out that clinics are exploiting couples who cannot afford expensive, private IVF treatment. However, it also includes a quote from an IVF support group, called Cradle, expressing great excitement about this scheme which suggests that patients remain unaware of the dangers of egg donation.


THE AGE, AUSTRALIA, "DO NOT ALLOW EXPLOITATION" (Nov 8, 2006): Neuroscientist, Dr Monique Baldwin, an Australian representative of Hands Off Our Ovaries, writes that the Senate is considering whether to allow human embryos to be cloned for experimentation but have overlooked the fact that cloning requires a continuous, limitless supply of human eggs which will involve serious health risks for women. Noting that Hwang Woo-suk used more than 2000 eggs without producing a single human clone, she reports that scientists are desperate to provide commercial incentives, which will put disadvantaged and marginalised women at risk. She says scientists want large numbers of freshly obtained human ova, perhaps even within an hour of collection, but they still can't tell us how to do that in a way that is safe for women. Egg extraction involves weeks of psychological and medical testing, followed by more than a week of hormone injections. When the time is right, the donor is sedated and the doctor uses a long needle to pierce the wall of the vagina, access the ovaries and extract the eggs. One cycle typically produces seven or eight usable eggs. Up to 10 per cent of women develop ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, a painful condition that is sometimes fatal. Some research points to reproductive cancers in later life. Given the lack of adequate safety data, it is impossible to obtain true informed consent. Dr Baldwin also points out that even stem cell researchers think that the demand for eggs for cloning and embryo research is premature. Professor Silviu Itescu, chief scientific adviser for the stem cell company Mesoblast and a supporter of embryonic stem cell research, argued last week in that he did not understand the sense of urgency being created around the need to legalise cloning human embryos, given that the therapeutic concepts being discussed have not worked in animals. She concludes by saying that there is no scientific justification for pursuing cloning and putting the lives of Australian women at risk.


KOREA HERALD: SEOUL TIGHTENS EGG/SPERM DONATION RULES (20 November 2006): Following the scandal of Hwang Woo-suk's fabricated stem cell studies and revelations that junior female members of his research team were exploited to donate eggs, the law surrounding egg donation will be tightened. Junior researchers are likely to be banned from donating eggs because of the possibility of coercion, and the new guidelines will restrict donation from underage women and those who have not yet had children. The guidelines will state that donors should only receive a small sum of compensation. A separate organization to oversee egg donation will be set up and the donor and her spouse will receive a thorough explanation of the risks and will be given one month to make a decision. Unlike the United Kingdom and the United States where donations are permitted to up to 10 times, women in Korea will be limited to donating eggs a maximum of three times in their lifetime because of the potential health damage.


NATURE MEDICINE "STEM CELLS: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE BARELY IN CONTROL" (November 2006): This article highlights the problems associated with using embryonic stem cells to treat diseases, particularly the tendency of embryonic stem cells to form tumours. This is a huge obstacle before embryonic stem cells can be used in a clinical setting and supports Hands off Our Ovaries position that women are being exploited to donate eggs for experimental research which is unlikely to be used in the near future to treat patients and may not be used at all.
SOURCE: Nature Medicine Volume 12, Number 11, November 2006, 1237-1238


INDIA, THE ADVENT OF INTERNATIONAL "MAIL ORDER" EGG DONATION (November 2006): Some fertility clinics in developed countries are now sourcing oocyte donors from abroad, particularly from poorer countries, in what is referred to as 'transnational' or 'international' oocyte donation. The practice has been condemned for exploiting economically underprivileged women in poorer countries and disproportionate gains on the part of medical doctors and fertility clinics. Critics point out that the lack of medical care available to donors who are at risk of developing severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. In addition the cost savings from the lower prescription price of fertility drugs in economically less-developed countries may not be passed down to the oocyte recipient but instead be exploited to boost the already substantial profit margin of fertility clinics and doctors.


egg consultation final.doc

egg consultation final.pdf


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