Mumbai, Aug. 17: Women can donate their eggs and get paid for it — and many are queuing up.
Following guidelines laid down by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the medical community has become open to young women donating their eggs in exchange for a fee — between Rs 10,000 and Rs 25,000.
Many feel it can turn into a huge racket.
According to this in-vitro fertility (IVF) method, eggs can be extracted from a healthy woman, usually under the age of 35, which are then fertilised with the sperms of the recipient’s husband. The resultant embryo is placed inside the womb of the recipient. The success rate of this procedure is 30-40 per cent.
But this could become a career option, like professional blood or kidney donation is for many. It has already become a source of income for many women.
“We get many calls,” says Dr Nandita Palshetkar, who is associated with Leelavati Hospital. She, with her colleague Dr Hrishikesh Pai, accepts paid donors.
Dr Pai says the payment for one egg donation is Rs 10,000. “We prefer young married women, under the age 33, who have already given birth,” says Dr Pai. Having a child is proof of fertility.
Usually, it is women from poor families who are driven to donate their eggs for money. There are usually one or two such women every month who donate eggs for payment, says Dr Pai.
But fighting off college students who want to sell their eggs for pocket money has become as much a problem as finding the right donor.
“There are several college students who call,” he says, adding that he discourages them because that could lead to the egg donation becoming too commercial. He also discourages unmarried girls because extracting eggs is an invasive procedure.
Dr Indira Hinduja, another eminent gynaecologist, also says she gets several calls from college students wanting to donate eggs.
Dr Hinduja discourages them as well, choosing married women, but says the whole business could become too commercial.
She performs seven to eight egg donation operations every month, out of which one or two are paid donors who get between Rs 20,000 and Rs 25,000.
But there are others who are against paid egg donation outright, like veterans Dr Duru Shah and Dr R. Soonavala.
“Paid donation has been recognised by ICMR, but is yet to become a law,” says Dr Shah, who does not accept paid donors at her IVF clinic. “But already there are advertisements from clinics in newspapers asking for egg donors.”
“Soon, there could be a racket starting with some men having a group of women whose eggs they could sell,” says Dr Soonavala.
Dr Shah says she is worried on two counts: medical and ethical. “It is not without risk to the donor. The donor is given hormone injections, which makes her produce more eggs — about 10-12. It can lead to her being hyperstimulated with too many eggs. This can land her in ICU.
“She is also anaesthetised during the process. That may pose another risk and the eggs are extracted by using a needle.”
Dr Shah says donors are at the risk of exploitation as well.
“A young woman I knew wanted to donate eggs. But she grew only three eggs after the hormone injection. She could neither donate the eggs, nor was she paid anything,” she says.
The way out, all of them agree, is to have voluntary egg donors, a relative or a friend who would donate out of wish and not for money.
Egg-sharing is also promoted by them as an alternative. There are many women who are infertile because of other reasons, but possess eggs, but may not have the money for treatment. They may like to donate their eggs to other women who needs them, in exchange of which part of the cost of their treatment is borne by the recipient.
Or as Dr Soonavala says, the other way is to go for adoption. “But the instinct for reproduction is so strong in Indian couples that they want their own children,” he adds.
Dr Hinduja agrees. “Everyday, there is at least one couple who wants to be treated for infertility.”