Sterilisation offered to egg donors

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The Independent Online
WOMEN ARE being offered sterilisation without charge at a top private hospital in return for their eggs, raising concerns that women will donate their genetic material to jump NHS waiting lists.

The Centre for Reproductive Medicine (CRM) in Harley Street will advertise in papers in the Home Counties next week for women who want to be sterilised to come forward for a combined operation where their eggs will be harvested. The law does not allow women in Britain to be paid for their eggs but this form of advertising of "payment in kind" has been approved by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which licenses fertility clinics.

In Britain, there is a severe shortage of donor eggs for infertile women. It is estimated 9,000 women are currently waiting for healthy eggs.

Yesterday some fertility experts criticised the move, saying it was time to remove the hypocrisy surrounding egg donation and allow women to be paid for donations. There was a danger that women would donate just to jump the waiting list for sterilisation, they said.

"It is not as if the woman is coming forward to donate her eggs because she wants to. They have to take lots of drugs and the danger is that some may do it just to jump the waiting list," said Sam Abdalla, director of the IVF unit at the Lister Hospital, London. "Women who donate their eggs should really have the conviction of what they are doing."

Robert Forman, medical director of CRM, defended the move. He said: "There are many women who have completed their family and who want to be sterilised. It is not a priority treatment on the NHS so these women often have to wait over year for the operation. We're giving women under 36 a chance to have the operation earlier at the same time as helping infertile women."

The clinic has 20 women waiting for an egg donor.

The donor would need to take drug injections for about 10 days before the operation to stimulate their ovaries and then she would booked into aprivate London hospital for the double operation, saving pounds 1,500 on the cost of the sterilisation.

The advantage of using women who are seeking a sterilisation operation is that they have a proven record of fertility and have already established their own families.

"This is not for financial benefit and so is allowed under the guidelines," said Barney Wyld, spokesman for the HFEA. "There is a massive shortage of donor eggs in this country. There is low awareness of the need and these women, who are seeking sterilisation, may be much more sensitive to the wishes, needs and aspirations of infertile couples."

However Professor Ian Craft from the London Gynaecology and Fertility Centre, said it was "time to stop the hypocrisy". He said: "It is time to do the honest and honourable thing and pay womena limited amount for their eggs. In situations where the donor woman is known to the recipient, money often changes hands informally.

"Advertising free sterilisation may encourage women, who would not normally consider it, to donate their eggs. They may later regret it."

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