According to the Los Angeles Times, Ron Harris auctioned human eggs in the USA with bids starting at $15,000 in 1999. The practice of auctioning and selling human eggs for IVF treatment is not only done in the US. Recently, an IVF fertility clinic in London “raffled” a fertility treatment cycle in conjunction with a US based clinic in Virginia which is responsible for selecting donors and for processing payment to the donor in the order of £6000. The practice is now being done in Scotland where Scottish patients could undergo initial stages in a Glasgow clinic and then proceed with the rest of the treatment in Spain where, according to the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction , “Spanish legislation specifically places the relationship between the donor and clinics on a contractual basis”. The sale of human eggs is not allowed in the UK where donors are only compensated “reasonable” expenses and loss of earnings up to a maximum of £250.The problem is that there is a long waiting list for donated human eggs and a market has arisen.
It is a tribute to the creativity of scientists, biologists and medical doctors that some solutions to infertility are now available. Infertility is a complex emotional problem and the pain and tribulation of individuals and couples facing it should be weighed on the balance against the ramifications of the sale of human eggs for our society.
The Church of Scotland has a clear policy against the sale of human eggs because it considers the practice exploitative of the poor, who may feel compelled to become donors for a fee, undergoing invasive, potentially dangerous and often painful procedures. Fran Abrams of the Daily Mail documented the case of donors from Eastern Europe who have sold their eggs sometimes to the detriment of their own health. The practice is also actively pursued in India with medical tourists travelling for a variety of medical reasons including IVF treatments. The estimated revenue for the assisted reproductive technology industry in the USA alone was calculated at $2 billion US dollars. Donors only receive a small amount of this. It is very telling that such level of profits are extracted from human misery.
The sale of human eggs favours the commoditisation of human parts. Human eggs should not be in a shopping basket on the same level as a grocery item. Commoditisation erodes the inherent value and dignity accorded to the human body and human life. Just as it is wrong to buy and sell human beings it is wrong to buy and sell human eggs.