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Saturday, January 29, 2011



I am writing today to prospective parents considering egg donation, to the parents of donor conceived children and to donor candidates. I want to address the claims made by and in support of “Eggsploitation: The Infertility Industry Has a Dirty Little Secret” a documentary soon to be screened on Capitol Hill by the Center for Bioethics and Culture.

Since word of this film came to our community, my colleagues and I have been talking about the young women portrayed, each alleging grave side-effects suffered, they claim, as a result of their respective egg donation experiences. “The young women interviewed in this film talk about suffering from strokes, brain damage, internal bleeding, or infertility after the procedure. Some ended up with cancer. Others nearly died from complications of the surgery done to retrieve the eggs” says Chuck Colson, Founder of the Colson Center for a Christian Worldview.

My colleagues and I are comparing notes, we are sharing our respective histories of working, likely, in a collective sense, with thousands of egg donors, we are worried that the correlations alleged in the film between dire health consequences and egg donation will impact how hopeful parents (and even successful recipient parents) regard this family building option. We are concerned that donor candidates will become alarmed.

While it would be unfair to the women interviewed to question the truthfulness of their stories, I can emphatically state that in my close to ten-years of working with egg donors, I have never known a donor to report a stroke, brain damage, a diagnosis of cancer or a near-death experience. None of my colleagues had any such stories to share, either. Certainly and unfortunately, we are all aware of the potential of ovarian hyper-stimulation as well as other possible post-cycle health issues. But do know that those of us who practice responsibly take seriously our obligation to make donor candidates aware of potential side-effects and we trust, too, that the physicians, nurses and mental health professionals will review, in detail, all possible risks before a donor is allowed to proceed.

Wesley J. Smith, a compensated consultant to the producers of “Eggsploitation” writes with hyperbole in his article “A Preventative Against Biological Colonialism” that “donors are not patients in the traditional sense…rather, they are means to an end for the real patients of the clinics…donors may be viewed as a resource to be harvested and then forgotten. Indeed, the film documents how donors quickly become out of sight and out of mind.”

And Colson continues: “If (donors) express any concerns or reservations (about the process), according to the young women interviewed in the film, they are pressured and even guilt-tripped into continuing.”

I not only find both Mr. Smith’s and Mr. Colson’s comments distorted, I question their points of reference. Most clinics, in my experience, treat donors with enormous regard, with tremendous compassion and are very careful to assess whether or not a donor meets the standard of “informed”.

What can you do if you are considering egg donation (either as a recipient or a donor)? Ask questions. Talk to your agency about what information is made available to donor applicants about the process. Ask what the clinic’s donor education program looks like. Ask about agency and clinic practices regarding the documenting of an applicant’s health history in order to assess whether or not she is an acceptable candidate. If you are a donor applicant, ask if the agency or the clinic can connect you with previous donors so that you can inquire about their experiences. Find out from both the agency and the clinic how many donors may have suffered medical complications. Be pttro-active in gathering information. I suspect, if you are diligent in your fact-finding, that both donors and recipients will find responsible programs that prioritize a donor’s well-being and take good care should she have need for follow-up.
See the film if you must (and as a side-note, consider the agenda of the organization releasing it) but please do not let this documentary dissuade you from a process you otherwise thought might be right for you.

Amy Demma, Esq.
Amy Demma is a New York licensed attorney practicing in reproductive law. Amy was the founder of Prospective Families, an agency now affiliated with The Fertility Source Companies

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