The London Bridge Centre fertility clinic is the first in the UK to organize a competition where the winner will be given free human eggs and treatment.
The winner can choose an egg donor by their education, upbringing and physical characteristics.
The sale of eggs for profit is banned in Britain, so in order for the competition to remain legal, the winner will have the treatment carried out in the USA.
The law giving all egg and sperm donors anonymity was changed in April 2005 so that all donor children could trace their donor parent at the age of 18 years of age. This was to prevent children from growing up and inadvertantly marrying a blood relative. Unfortunately it led to a huge drop in the number of people willing to be egg and sperm donors, fearful that they then would have to assume the role of parent once the child was 18. This problem was so pronounced that some fertility clinics in the UK had to close and many of them are now sourcing their eggs and sperm from foreign countries.
The London Bridge Centre said the idea came from its American partner, the Genetics and IVF Institute, and that they did not have the final decision, nor were they breaking any law.
‘There was no Raffle’
They denied that a raffle had taken place, saying
“There was no raffle or lottery, but in accordance with its regular practice in the USA, GIVF awarded a free treatment cycle to one of the attendees at the seminar.”
Even if tickets were not issued, as in a traditional raffle, it was still a competition where a winner was picked at random from those attending the seminar, so raffle, or particularly lottery, could be seen to be accurate descriptions.
Dr. Francoise Shenfield, a fertility expert from University College, London, thought the event was a tacky publicity stunt.
“There’s something shocking in the association of a raffle and giving away a human product. In Europe, we have the general idea that altruism is a good thing, and we don’t want to turn human body parts into a commodity.”
The London Bridge Centre defended its participation in the event, saying that the massive shortage of eggs in the UK was its motivating reason. This shortage of eggs has meant many infertile couples are still on waiting lists or unable to have fertility treatment.
Due to the cost of IVF, some potential parents are now looking for alternative options to fund such treatment, including egg share schemes, natural cycle IVF and even promotions such as this one.
But there can be a tendancy to forget that eggs are reproductive cells that hold the blue print for human life and they should be treated with more respect than they are currently given.
A serious discussion needs to be untaken about the drop in donors and what measures can be taken to allay potential donor fears so that supplies can be increased without resorting to such publicity stunts.