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Keywords:

  • Commercialisation;
  • donation;
  • ethics;
  • mail order;
  • oocyte

The rising demand and increasing scarcity of donor oocytes in developed countries have led to some fertility clinics sourcing oocyte donors from abroad, particularly from poorer countries, in what is referred to as ‘transnational’ or ‘international’ oocyte donation. In a further new ‘twist’ to this scheme, frozen sperm of the recipient’s male partner is exported abroad through courier mail and is used to fertilise donor oocytes in a foreign clinic to produce embryos, which are then cryopreserved and imported back by mail for transfer to the woman. There are numerous ethical concerns with regards to such means of procuring donor oocytes. First, there is an issue of exploiting economically underprivileged women in poorer countries and disproportionate gains on the part of medical doctors and fertility clinics. Second, there is a question of abdication of responsibility for the donor’s welfare on the part of the fertility doctor who takes charge of the recipient’s treatment abroad if oocyte donors were to develop severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Third, the issue of responsibility and accountability becomes even more contentious if congenital defects were to appear in offsprings born from transnational oocyte donation or in the case of transmission of communicable diseases such as hepatitis B, syphilis and AIDS to the recipient. Last, cost savings from the lower prescription price of fertility drugs in economically less-developed countries may not be passed down to the oocyte recipient but instead be exploited to boost the already substantial profit margin of fertility clinics and doctors.