This is one of those stories the media sometimes offers up in its own sensationalized fashion. I sometimes even wonder if these are true or if they belong in the “I was abducted by aliens” category–they sell papers. But there’s a way in which it doesn’t matter to me if this one is true–it’s clearly possible.
Penny Jarvis, who is 25, wants to donate (and I do mean donate–no compensation) her own eggs to her now 2-year-old daughter, Mackenzie. Mackenzie was born without ovaries and so will not be producing her own eggs. Thus, if Mackenzie wants to become pregnant at some point in the future she’ll need to use an egg from someone else. Anticipating that need, Penny would have her own eggs frozen now so that they could be available to Mackenzie when she wants them.
Now the paper clearly thinks this is very weird. It notes:
The test-tube baby would be a half-sibling of its birth mother as well as another child of its grandmother. The baby’s father would be fertilising his mother-in-law’s egg. In addition the baby’s aunts and uncles would also be its half-brothers and sisters.
I suppose for those who define relationships by way of genetics these things would be true. And even though I don’t do that, I can see a bit of why it seems weird.
That said, I wonder if for some people it isn’t a more acceptable form of egg donation then the ordinary commercial transaction. After all, it is truly altruistic and any resulting child would be raised by a genetically closely related relative with access to the family history/traditions and all that. This seems to address the main concerns I’ve frequently heard about using third-party eggs. If that’s so, instead of saying this is weird, shouldn’t we say it’s laudable?
An afterthought: I happened to describe this situation to my students today and one of them asked about whether it wouldn’t be even better (from some perspective) if the eggs were provided by a sister of Mackenzie. The sibling would share genetic material from both of Mackenzie’s parents. Since Mackenzie is the fourth child in the family it’s quite possible there’s already an older sister. But of course, there’s no saying she’d provide an egg in twenty years time.