The Egg Raffle Once More

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.

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2 responses to “The Egg Raffle Once More

  1. Again its so entirely nothing like cosmetic surgery in that it does not stay with the reciepients own body for life as a nose job would. It is so entirely nothing like receiving an organ because it will not stay with the reciepients own body for life. What gets put into the body of the reciepient is not an egg, its a fetus embryo whatever. So whether people are bidding on “it” or winning” it”or buying “it”- “it”is the opportunity to give birth to and keep for ones own, another woman’s child that people are seeking. Certainly not an egg. You get a refund if you don’t take home a baby, not an egg.

    • There are so many different ways to draw the analogies or to resist them. I suppose the real challenge is figuring out which analogies or distinctions are helpful.

      Someone had asked about whether I thought selling organs was okay. This, it seems to me, requires me to consider the ways in which selling an egg is/is not like selling an organ. I’m not sure the fact that you don’t keep it in your own body is what makes it seem different to me, though that’s another distinction that might be worth thinking about.

      Ultimately I think it is true that there are no really good analogies to gametes, because gametes have the unique potential to be combined to produce a new person. But deciding they are not like anything else doesn’t tell me how to treat them. Hence, I might revert to imperfect analogies.

      As your last point suggests, there may be some further distinctions to be drawn. One could (and probably should) separately consider the sale of eggs, sperm, gametes generally, a pre-embryo, or some combination of those things along with various medical services. I was thinking mostly about the sale/raffle of an egg here, but perhaps the package really did include more.

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