When fertility doctors determined Vernon’s own eggs were kaput, they enthusiastically recommended a young egg donor who’d already helped two other couples get pregnant. Vernon tried to use this woman’s eggs in combination with her husband’s sperm, but the eggs, so successful for others, didn’t work for her. It’s hard to find an egg donor in New York, where a plethora of professional women in their 30s and 40s with dysfunctional ovaries has created a demand for eggs far greater than the supply. Vernon (not her real name) had to wait six months for another donor. Two weeks before that donor’s eggs were to be harvested, doctors realized the donor had endometriosis and she was disqualified. “It was such a huge disappointment,” says Vernon, a psychiatrist who was 45 at the time. That’s how Vernon found herself becoming an egg pioneer of sorts: She went online to a new website that sells frozen donor eggs flown in from other cities. She was pleased to find a much wider selection than with fresh eggs — dozens of choices instead of one or two — and for about $11,000 less.
This article is strange for a number of reasons. First, there is no evidence that there is a shortage of viable egg donors in New York or any major metropolitan area. It is highly common, in the egg donation industry, for a donor to fly across the country to donate eggs in a city where the individual in need of the eggs reside. The alleged lack of supply of eggs cited in the article may really be a product of the fact that egg donation can be expensive and that given the financial barriers to entry there may, lamentably, be a significant number or people who would like to use the services of an egg donor but are simply unable to afford it. Unfortunately, buying frozen eggs is not the panacea that the article presents.
Left wholly unaddressed by the article, is the fact that buying eggs, embryos, or other genetic material over the internet could be considered illegal in some jurisdictions in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Egg donors, as the name implies, are compensated for the pain, suffering, time, and effort necessary for them to donate their eggs to individuals who are medically incapable of producing children of their own. At no time is an egg donor, at least if a reputable agency is involved, paid for her eggs. Buying eggs on the internet could subject the egg donor, the intended parent(s), and the agency to criminal liability at both the state and federal levels here or abroad.
Second, although the article briefly touches on this issue, it is impossible to overstate how easy it is for a “fly by night” online frozen egg agency to send genetic material that bears no relation to the donor claimed by the agency as there is simply no guarantee that an agency who traffics in frozen eggs over the internet can guarantee that eggs are in fact from the individual who the agency claims they are from.
Furthermore, the article relies on an anecdote to support the claim that frozen eggs are somehow preferable to fresh:
Dr. Juergen Eisermann, a fertility specialist in Miami, says he’s a big fan of frozen eggs, because using fresh eggs is “never fun.” Take this past Friday. He was explaining to an egg donor that her estrogen levels were perfect, and she needed to come in the next day to have her eggs harvested. They would then be fertilized and transferred to the uterus of another woman who’d been waiting a long time to become a mother. “The donor said, ‘No, I can’t come in, because I’m going to Boston with a friend to the Head of the Charles Regatta.’ And I said, ‘Honey, I just put $4,000 worth of medicines in you that you didn’t pay for and the recipient has been waiting half a year for this, and you’re going to escape on the last day?’ I had to call the egg donor agency to lean on that lady, to read her the riot act, and finally she decided to stay,” he says.
The doctor’s statements, assuming that he wasn’t quoted out of context, in this article that using fresh eggs is “never fun” is highly problematic. Using the services of a reputable egg donation agency ensures that that a potential donor has been carefully screened. Because the donor has been carefully screened, that donor is aware of the responsibilities inherent in donating her eggs to an intended parent. Before a donor receives any medications, she will have signed an egg donation contract that provides strict guidelines as to when the retrieval is scheduled to take place and when and where a donor can travel in the interim. Egg donors, from reputable agencies, are always provided an attorney to negotiate and explain the terms of the agreement and their rights, obligations and responsibilities. Using the anecdote above, if the donor was represented by an attorney, signed a contract, and subsequently decided to skip the retrieval to watch a boat race, then the donor would understand that she would be sued and thus be liable for all of the intended parents expenses as a result of her decision.
You very much get what you pay for in the assisted reproduction industry. Cutting corners by acquiring eggs on the internet could result in a situation in which an individual could violate the law while ending up with eggs of questionable origin. Given the enormity of the decisions to use assisted reproduction, it is imperative that an individual inform themselves, by engaging attorneys experienced in the field and reputable agencies, before cutting corners that could lead to disastrous results. Its a shame that this article could unwittingly cause people merely trying to have children of their own tremendous grief and liability.