Increase in Egg Donors Raises Concerns

The Associated Press
Monday, February 19, 2007; 2:04 AM

CHICAGO -- Human egg donation was a rarity not so long ago. But heightened demand for eggs _ and rising compensation for donors _ are prompting more young women to consider it.

Jennifer Dziura, a 28-year-old New Yorker, is one of them.

She received $8,000 to donate her eggs in the fall of 2005 and hopes she'll be chosen again before the private egg broker she's registered with considers her too old. She realizes prospective parents who view her profile might think it a minus that her father is adopted, allowing for little medical history from his side. She also figures some are looking for a blonde, instead of a brunette.

"But, hey, I have perfect SAT scores," Dziura, an aspiring comedian and model, says with a slight chuckle.

As more older moms look for help getting pregnant, younger women have become increasingly willing to part with their eggs. Some do it to help relatives and friends, or from a sense of altruism, but others openly acknowledge money is a big factor in their decision, prompting critics to worry that they're helping drive an unregulated market for human tissue.

In 1996, women in federally monitored programs donated eggs just over 3,800 times. That number has risen steadily, to more than 10,000 in 2004, the most recent year for which the Centers for Disease Control has compiled data.

A decade ago, Dr. Joel Brasch, a fertility specialist in the Chicago area, had to work hard to recruit five or 10 young women for his own practice's donor pool _ but not anymore.

The money is seen as compensation for time and trouble. Among other things, donors learn to inject themselves with hormones and, eventually, have a needle inserted through their vaginal wall so eggs can be harvested.

"Everyone does it for the money," says Dziura, the egg donor in New York. "No one would do that for free _ maybe for your sister, but not for a stranger."

The American Society of Reproductive Medicine, or ASRM, has set a compensation guideline of $5,000, with a limit of $10,000 for special cases _ if, for instance, a recipient wants eggs of rare ancestry.

The president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, an affiliate of ASRM, argues that if women were just motivated by money, they wouldn't get past the psychological screening to become a donor. And, he says, researchers who've surveyed donors have found another strong motive.

"They're very altruistic and very willing to help a couple who's trying to conceive," says Dr. David Grainger, who's also a reproductive endocrinologist at University of Kansas medical school in Wichita.

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