Friday 21 January 2011
One of Britain's leading fertility experts today accused clinics of exploiting women by offering them cut-price IVF in return for their eggs.
Professor Robert Winston said that schemes where patients are encouraged to share their eggs with infertile women were wrong.
Lord Winston said: "Egg-sharing is a very bad idea and an easy way of exploiting women wanting treatment. It's a pretty devastating scenario to give eggs to someone else and that other person gets pregnant and you don't. Then 20 years later you're contacted by that child. It's shocking."
Lord Winston said he supported a change in the law to allow payments for egg donation. At present, egg donors can be compensated up to £250 but proposals published by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority this week suggest they could in future be paid several thousand pounds.
The HFEA consultation also covers sperm donors, egg-sharing and the ethics of clinics offering "inducements" in return for eggs.
Peter Bowen-Simpkins, medical director of the London Women's Clinic which runs an egg-sharing scheme, said his clinic opposed payments to egg donors as they might not appreciate the health risks of fertility medication. "It's asking young people, especially students with debts, to donate and could permanently harm them," he said. "With egg-sharing, women are already undergoing IVF and know the risks."
Elaine O'Hara, 30, of Hampshire, and civil partner Suzanne, 29, started fertility treatment at the LWC last autumn. The couple, who are in the Army, are taking part in the egg-sharing scheme in return for part of their treatment costs. Ms O'Hara, an accountant, said: "I decided to donate eggs because we couldn't conceive and have a family without a (sperm) donor.
"More people would come forward if donors are paid - of course money would be an incentive. But I don't know if that guarantees the quality of eggs. It was made clear that if another women conceives with my eggs then we might get a 16-year-old contacting us. That would be exciting though."
The Government is also under pressure over the ban on paying women who act as surrogate mothers. Actress Nicole Kidman, 43, and her husband Keith Urban have revealed that they have become parents to a girl born with a surrogate mother last month. The couple are the biological parents of Faith Margaret, They already have a two-year-old daughter, Sunday Rose.