UCL News


Press cutting: Should the gift of life have a price tag?

19 February 2007

At present, women can only donate their eggs as part of fertility treatment or sterilisation.

Women are offered reduced-price IVF treatment in exchange for eggs to help infertile women get pregnant. They can also donate spare eggs for research for free, but few people take up the opportunity - only 20 eggs were offered in 2003. …

There has also been concern about the risks of the process, and a new study has highlighted potentially life-threatening side-effects. …

However, Dr Sammy Lee [UCL Anatomy & Developmental Biology], a lecturer in human embryology who teaches ethics in reproduction, said the small risks involved were worth it.

He said: "It is generally accepted that there is a desperate shortage of eggs worldwide, which will cause advances to stall if we do not address it.

"Improved access to human eggs allows for the possibility of medical research, which carries the promise of future medical advance, which may benefit hundreds of millions of people." …

He said: "Each year more than 6,000 cycles of egg donation occur in the UK. Many of the donors are not patients, rather altruistic donors who are friends, sisters or acquaintances.

"For years, these plucky altruists have consented to give the 'gift of life' to recipients undergoing IVF. The risk may not therefore be viewed as unreasonable or novel."

Alastair Dalton, 'The Scotsman'