Though I still think it is more like a door prize than a raffle, I wanted to return to the prior post one more time. To tie the two posts together, it makes more sense to refer to the last heading.)
Here’s a follow-up story from the UK press. For starters, I think the headline is totally misleading–note that it speaks of “hundreds bid[ding] for chance to win human egg.” Bidding, to me at least, bespeaks auction. (I confess it is the time of year when every school and charity I know seems to hold its annual auction, so auctions are much on my mind.) And whatever else this offer may be, it’s really not an auction where the egg goes to the highest bidder.
Reading this follow up article as well as the comments to the last post have helped me understand what it is that troubles me here. (Keep in mind that from my own point of view, buying/selling gametes is not in and of itself the problem. For more, read that last post.)
I think the initial comment (by Sara Maimon) on the last post really touched on the key issue for me. It isn’t the woman who sells her egg that troubles me. It’s the third-party in the middle–in this case the clinics (one in the UK and one in the US) running the contest. While I recognize that those in the ART industry may bring considerable clinical skill to the operations, they are also operating as for-profit enterprises. As for-profit enterprises, they perpetually seek to increase demand for their services, allowing them to maintain high prices.
This “egg as a door-prize” idea is really a marketing device even if the reproductive endocrinologist involved says his goal was to do a “nice thing.” It’s a marketing device that shamelessly exploits the needs of the people seeking fertility services in an unseemly way. Perhaps this, as much as anything, is what bothers me.
In one of the later comments on the last post, Kisarita suggested that the door prize idea equates fertility services with cosmetic surgery. Whether fertility services are like cosmetic surgery is worth thinking about, but her point set me thinking. Would we allow medically needed services to be raffled off–come to the party and win a free appendectomy? I don’t think that we would. Thus, I think Kisarita’s point that the door-prize strategy undermines the important of fertility services is well-taken.
Perhaps fertility services should be more available and, where available, more affordable generally. It isn’t the money that the egg donor is receiving that drives up the price. Indeed, I wonder whether egg providers are adequately compensated for the risks and costs they experience. (I’m much less troubled by the compensation for sperm providers, as providing sperm is quite different from providing an egg.) It’s the substantial industry interested only in making money off of reproduction that warrants concern. Surely it’s worth keeping a critical eye on the industry, even for those supportive of the use of ART.