05 March 2012
ByAppeared in BioNews 647
CBC Radio 1, Sunday 19 February 2012
Presented by Alison Motluk
'"My stomach was so big, I could not bend over". Melanie was ballooning out. "I couldn't lift my arms". She looked like a pregnant woman, well past her due date, and getting bigger by the hour. Melanie had trouble breathing and keeping food down. She was on four types of painkillers and blood thinners to prevent a clot. She spent nine days in hospital. "It was awful"'.
Clearly, this excerpt from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's radio documentary on the potential complications of egg donation would make any woman think twice about donating eggs.
Although feeling a bit faint for a couple of minutes can hardly be compared to Melanie's ordeal I have some first-hand experience of a blood donation going slightly awry. For me, the most shocking part of this documentary, now available as a podcast, was the differences in the standard of care that we received.
Despite being back on my feet within minutes, I was given brochures, lectured by a nurse on the importance of hydration, and given extra biscuits to make sure I got home all right. But most importantly, the moment I indicated I wasn't feeling all that great, nurses rushed over to help me. Melanie, on the other hand, had to go through the fertility clinic that had retrieved her eggs, a gynaecology clinic and an emergency ward before someone could tell her what was going on with her body.
Melanie had developed ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. This is a complication of egg donation occurring in about one percent of women undergoing ovarian stimulation. In this podcast, journalist Alison Motluk followed several women who donated eggs and later regretted it, mainly due to this complication.
It makes for an interesting half hour of listening. As opposed to the film Eggsploitation (reviewed in BioNews 632), Motluk's feature strives for a balanced view on the consequences of egg donation. Although women like Melanie are the focus for the documentary, Motluk garners expert opinions from fertility doctors and bioethicists. Importantly, she includes some positive views.
Consequently, this feature eloquently explains where the conflicts in egg donation lie. The documentary touches on a wide range of subjects: from the need for fertility doctors to consider both the recipient's wishes and the donor's health to the question of whether donors should be financially compensated, via the lack of research on the effects of egg donation on the donor's health.
For someone like me, who was unaware of these issues, this podcast served as a great introduction to the topic. Motluk's steady hand weaving together the interviews with both donors and experts ensures a fascinating listen. Highly recommended.