A documentary of the hazards of egg donation
Jennifer Lahl came to Rochester on August 9, 2010, to present the premier of Eggsploitation, the story of women who donate their eggs “to make someone’s dream come true.” What is unmentioned in the ads for egg donors but clearly delineated in Eggsploitation is the health hazards to the unsuspecting donors.
Lahl said that women who answer the ads are not likely to be told that they are at risk for stroke, kidney damage, clotting problems, shock, even death. Ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome is a potential for women who take the powerful hormones that alter a woman’s monthly cycle and force her body to ripen (mature) 30 – 40 eggs instead of the natural 1 or 2. Benign adrenal tumors, relatively common in the US population, can begin sudden significant growth under the hormonal regimen.
Lahl pointed out that the surgical procedure of egg retrieval presents its own hazards. With blood vessels rendered unusually fragile by the drug/hormone regimen, women can have unexpected and catastrophic bleeding, as well as the usual risks of infection, etc., that are attached to any surgical procedure.
It annoys Lahl that, unfortunately, no records are kept on donors and any health issues the donors might have had. Therefore only some of the risks are known and virtually none are documented. Under these conditions, it is not possible for women to be sufficiently informed to be able to give informed consent. However, in spite of the lack of true informed consent, the procedure continues, putting at risk the health of unsuspecting women.
The fact that “donors” are paid what seems to them to be a large amount of money is also reckoned to impair the decision-making process and the degree to which they have given truly informed consent.
After the screening, producer Lahl answered questions. She said that when she testifies, she frequently sees the walls of the room lined with women who are upset and angry at the possibility that egg donation might be stopped. They are very convinced of the need they have for a child and also convinced of their right to the procedure. Concern for the health of the egg “donors” does not seem to be part of their reality.
One local person commented on her own sense of outrage over the issue and the outrage of the people to whom she gives information about the hazards of egg donation. Lahl says that she does not usually encounter outrage, just people’s surprise that they had been so uninformed. It is possible, although Lahl did not mention it, that pro-life audiences regard this as simply another betrayal of women, just like abortion, and are outraged at the betrayal, while Lahl’s presentations are to more general audiences with fewer predispositions.
Lahl regards this issue as a general women’s health issue. She does not like to see it labeled a pro-life issue because then the people who hear the message are fewer and highly selected.
From Lahl’s presentation, one can draw some very clear conclusions. This procedure should not be allowed until provision has been made for tracking current donor health and paying for treatment of complications. In addition, records need to be accumulated in research so that future donors can be truly informed.
RARTL LeBlanc August, 2010