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Women's Health Education Program Scholars' Projects

Ethical and Legal Considerations of Human Egg Donation

WHEP scholar Esieza Braimah

WHEP Scholar Esieza Braimah
Drexel University College of Medicine, Class of 2021

Egg donation has been a controversial topic since its beginnings. The practice raises several ethical issues, especially as technology continues to advance. Egg donation is only lightly regulated, and those regulations that exist fall into two categories: safety testing and truth in advertising. Neither category includes informed consent or compensation. Egg donation may be on its way to becoming a “made to order” service based on prospective parents choosing specific traits from donors, possibly promoting eugenics and potentially fostering a system of inequality and injustice. Wealthy prospective parents would be able to bid competitively for donors who have been more extensively screened for health, intellect, beauty, or less desirable traits.  Other issues include the rights of the unborn child and whether an egg donor has any parental rights or responsibilities.

Websites for egg donation agencies use manipulative language and themes to influence recipients and donors. For donors, the agencies use monetary and non-monetary benefits that inappropriately focus on personal gain, rather than consideration for the potential recipients’ medical concerns or situation. The presentation of compensation on these sites preys on those with financial hardship who may be more drawn to donating eggs only because of desperate financial need. 

Donors may not be presented with the full information about the procedure or associated risks. They should receive information on the potential physical and psychological effects of oocyte retrieval and donation, and donor age should be limited to those who are 21 years and older. Egg donation is both under-regulated and under-investigated. Targeted efforts are needed to address the health and safety of women who donate their eggs.

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