Several years ago when taking a course at a local community college we were astonished to see an ad to buy eggs in the school paper. What was this all about? Eggs for what purpose? Were they for the process of In Vitro Fertilization or also for the making of embryos for experimentation which can lead to cloning and drug testing? Now the truth is finally coming out. This new film “Eggsploitaton” tells the facts that haven’t been exposed before. Egg donations are endangering a woman’s future fertility and likely harming her health in other ways.
The infertility industry in the United States has grown to a multi-billion dollar business. What is its main commodity? Human eggs. Young women all over the world are solicited by ads—via college campus bulletin boards, social media, online classifieds—offering up to $100,000 for their “donated” eggs, to “help make someone’s dream come true.” But who is this egg donor? Is she treated justly? What are the short – and long-term risks to her health? The answers to these questions will disturb you.
Produced by The Center for Bioethics and Culture (Lines That Divide, 2009), Eggsploitation spotlights the booming business of human eggs told through the tragic and revealing stories of real women who became involved and whose lives have been changed forever.
What People Are Saying About Eggsploitation
Eggsploitation renders the medical risks of paid egg donation with care and truth in every detail and makes a thoroughly devastating case against the commodification of women and their eggs.
Donald Landry, MD, PhD, Chair, Department of Medicine, Columbia University School of Medicine.
It is a scandal that the infertility industry has gone so many years without collecting adequate safety data on the risks of multiple egg extraction. This makes informed consent impossible for the thousands of young women now undergoing so-called ‘egg donation’ procedures. Every young woman considering ‘egg donation’ as a way to generate income for school tuition or other critical expenditures should see this film first. And policy makers
need to insist that we finally conduct the research that should have been done years ago.
Judy Norsigian, Executive Director, Our Bodies Ourselves
This powerful, important and informative documentary gives viewers true insight into the egg donation industry and helps us to better understand the desperate need for regulation and oversight. All prospective egg donors (and recipients) as well as all practitioners and agency employees in the egg donation industry should be required to watch this film!
Wendy Kramer, Director and Co-Founder, Donor Sibling Registry
Eggsploitation is a powerful and compelling film on the extreme risks and disregard shown to women . . . a must see for all egg donors and fertility patients. The infertility industry’s practice of reproductive endocriminology is a “dirty little secret” and should be secret no more.
Lynne Millican, Founder, LupronVictimsHub.com
What fertility clinics and egg donation agencies may not tell you. This film should be seen by any woman considering becoming—or using—an egg donor so that she can better understand the medical risks involved.
Diane Allen, Infertility Network, Canada
Eggsploitation is a compelling and revealing documentary that gives the viewer an up-close look at the flipside of the infertility industry. You will meet women whose lives were changed forever after undergoing the procedure for egg donation. Their disturbing and heart wrenching stories tell a cautionary tale to all women who are considering egg donation for the purpose of in-vitro fertilization or embryonic stem cell research. A must see film for researchers, physicians, professors, college students and feminists.
Kelly Vincent-Brunacini, President, Feminists Choosing Life New York
Eggsploitation Glossary of Terms
Egg Donor: A woman who provides one or more eggs for the purpose of assisting with in vitro fertilization (IVF) or scientific research. An egg donor can donate for altruistic purposes or for monetary compensation.
Gamete: A reproductive cell containing half of the genetic material necessary to form a complete human organism. During fertilization, male and female gametes (sperm and ovum, respectively) fuse, producing a zygote.
Germ Cells: Cells comprising actual reproductive components of a human organism (e.g., eggs, sperm).
In Vitro: A process that takes place in the laboratory (e.g., in cell culture).
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): Refers to any technique in which egg(s) and sperm are joined (or egg(s) are fertilized with sperm) outside of the human body, creating a human embryo in the laboratory.
Oocyte: An egg before maturation; a female gametocyte; also referred to as an ovum.
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS): A condition that may result from the hormones administered for the purpose of superovulation and occurs in some magnitude (mild, moderate, severe) as a short-term complication. Milder forms occur 10 percent to 20 percent of the time (American Society of Reproductive Medicine, ASRM, 2005). Symptoms of OHSS include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal distention. More serious forms of OHSS result in fluid retention and accumulation of fluid in the abdomen and pleural cavity, which puts pressure and stress on major organs that can lead to strokes, organ failure and respiratory compromise. The ASRM (2003) states that more severe forms of OHSS, which result in hospitalization, are “by no means rare.”
Somatic Cells: Cells from the body other than sperm or egg cells.
Sperm Donor: A man who provides sperm for the purposes of assisting in IVF or scientific research. A sperm donor can donate for altruistic purposes or for monetary compensation.
Superovulation: Process by which an egg donor’s ovaries are stimulated to produce multiple eggs that can be used for IVF or research. It involves the administration of a series of powerful hormones to first suppress the ovarian function, and then to superovulate the woman to produce large numbers of eggs (12 to 20, or more) that are then surgically extracted.
Zygote: A cell formed by the union of two gametes.
Interview by Jennifer Lahl, founder and President of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network.
Lahl: Linda, what do you want people to know?
Linda: I don’t want others to experience what I went through. It felt like I was fighting a cancer that no one knew about, and I felt so alone in this world. No one else was in my shoes, and I got into this position myself and no one would understand—not my parents, not my family, not my girlfriend. I just want people to be aware of the consequences, because it’s not something you think about before you decide to sign your life on paper to an agency who is out to just take from you for their best interest and not yours. I went through this three times, and I didn’t learn my lesson until I almost faced my death three months ago.
That you can possibly die from this, and it’s not a joke, or worth $5k or any amount of money. Losing your life would end your chances of making that money, period. I was a victim and I will stand and speak about it. They are out there preying on ones like me.
Lahl: What would you say to a woman who was thinking of donating/selling her eggs?
Linda: JUST DONT DO IT. You don’t want the psychology of the idea of a baby out there looking like you. You definitely don’t want to go through the procedure, the injections, the medication, and all the office procedures. It will ruin your relationship with your family, and if you think it’s a way to get back at them because you feel like they don’t care, this is NOT the way.
Summary and Conclusion:
- Ethical considerations:
Financial compensation for eggs disproportionately targets college women with financial hardships. These women usually have long academic careers ahead of them and have not considered childbearing yet, so any infertility caused by the procedure would cause more psychological and physical damage to these women. Docked pay for failure to produce a target number of eggs and escalating pay scales for subsequent cycles are factors that may encourage underreporting of adverse side effects by the egg donor.
- Subject safety:
Subject safety is variable, being highly dependent on the individual clinician’s practice. This is why there needs to be standardized safety practices and mandatory reporting of complications.
- Informed consent:
Many are improperly informed about the risks of the egg harvesting process. Verbally I was told that risk was virtually nonexistent and that studies have not linked the procedure to cancer and infertility. I should have been told that there were not enough studies or long-term follow up to determine risk.
- Patient autonomy:
I was hyperstimulated with approximately 60 eggs retrieved. During the procedure I expressed concerns about not using weight-based dosing of fertility medication, the excessive number of follicles produced, and skyrocketing estradiol levels. Nothing was done to personalize my procedure based on clinical findings.
Permission granted by The Center for Bioethics and Culture – www. cbc-network.org – firstname.lastname@example.org. The CBC is about shedding light on the bioethics issues within our culture that most profoundly affect our humanity—especially among the most vulnerable.
- Nature. 2006 Sep 7;443(7107):26. Health effects of egg donation may take decades to emerge.
- American Journal of Epidemiology Vol. 153, No. 11 : 1079-1084.
- Assessing the Medical Risks of Human Oocyte Donation for Stem Cell Research: Workshop Report (2007).