Egg donation: a gift of life after death?

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WILL INFERTILE women one day be helped by eggs taken from women who have died, or from aborted foetuses? Doctors at the British Medical Association conference next week will debate whether young women should be encouraged to carry egg donor cards, giving surgeons permission to remove their eggs or ovaries if they should die, in the same way that many people now carry organ donor cards.

They will also discuss the question of whether eggs or ovarian tissue should be used from aborted foetuses. In such cases, a generation of human development would be skipped, making the woman who terminated her pregnancy the genetic grandmother of a new child - a science fiction scenario for many people. Dame Jill Knight's recent amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill would make the use of foetal material for infertility services illegal.

Meanwhile, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has extended its consultation period on these issues to 15 July to allow more time for members of the public to air their views.

Scientists predict that, although the use of foetal material is some years away, they will be able, before the end of the year, to use eggs from women who have died. An infertile woman in Korea has become pregnant by that method.

So how do you explain to a child that its mother died as a young girl - or was never born at all? How would a woman who received such an egg feel? And what would it be like never to see your daughter grow up, but know that she was a mother?

Annabel Ferriman seeks views from women whose experiences have involved them in this debate, and from medical experts