Human organ donation is generally viewed as an altruistic endeavor in which a donor saves the life of a recipient by donating part of his or her body. Organ transplantation in the US is subject to extensive regulation, both at the state and federal level. Allocation of organs, medical oversight, and strict prohibition of selling organs are governed by clear, ethical guidelines. The more recent history of donating human eggs for in vitro fertilization or research, however, is surprisingly different. The regulations giving oversight for organ donations do not apply to egg donations. Young women are recruited by ads promising substantial payments for being a "donor" Health risks are not always clearly explained to potential donors, and many remain unknown. The market-driven dimension of the fertility industry raises ethical concerns about the recruitment, medical risks and conflicts of interest in what has become more than a $3 billion business. The problem is that egg donation is different from organ donation in legislative treatment, in medical oversight and in the economic marketplace. And the difference may be placing the young donors in harm's way.
This paper documents the similarities and differences between organ and egg donation, related to the risks that donors are required to take. The comparative analysis considers how economic, regulatory, physiological and values issues drive and maintain the differences by answering the question, "Is the growing market for human eggs developing without the medical and legislative oversight that protects other living donors, thus placing the egg donor at risk?" The results indicate that the egg donor has less protection, less oversight and greater vulnerability to exploitation than the organ donor. She donates her eggs for an optional procedure, not to save someone's life. Yet she takes known and unknown risks to her health in order to do so. After her eggs are harvested, future problems are neither tracked by the health system, nor is the information available to the child she helped to be conceived.
Ethical concerns are being voiced by those calling for change in this industry where donors are too often exploited and exposed to injury. Robust discussions are needed that will bring about oversight to protect the donor from harm and provide for the health of donor and recipient alike. If not, it is the egg donor who is at risk of being sold to the highest bidder.
|School Location:||United States -- District of Columbia|
|Source:||MAI 48/01M, Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Medicine, Womens studies, Medical Ethics, Gender studies|
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