Egg Buying, II

The story I blogged about a week-and-a-half ago has finally reached the NY Times.   (This is the one about NY state now paying women to donate eggs for stem cell research.) 

The story prompted me to return to this thread for a moment.  As the NY Times makes clear, for some the concern about buying the eggs is that women will give their eggs for other than altruistic reasons. 

This suggests two distinctions are being drawn–first, between altruistic and non-altruistic behavior, and second, between donating eggs for IVF as opposed to donating eggs for research.  It’s apparently okay to donate eggs for IVF no matter what your motivation but, at least for some people, it’s only okay to donate eggs for research for altruistic reasons.  

I frankly find this an incomprehensible place to draw a line.  On the one hand, I came to the conclusion some time ago, in the context of surrogacy, that there is rarely a clean line between altruistic donation and donation motivated by commercial interest.   The truth frequently lies somewhere in the middle–a little of this and a little of that.   If the money had nothing to do with it, then there would be plenty of donors without any money being offered.   But it’s also clear that helping another is an important motivation apart from the money.  

At the same time, as I noted last time, I don’t see why it would be okay to act from these mixed motives if you were donating eggs for ART, but not okay if you were donating them for medical research.  (I do understand the position that donating eggs for any purpose, or paying for eggs for any purpose, is wrong.)  Once you pay for eggs you commodify them.  You expose women who need money to the possiblity that they will be subject to exploitation.   But that would seem to be equally true no matter what you are using the eggs for. 

The Times says that the egg donations will be carefully monitored.  I’m not at all clear about what exactly they’ll be looking for.   But I suspect their monitoring might be substantially more thorough than the monitoring of a for-profit surrogacy clinic.


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