The London Fertility Centre has launched a new scheme that it hopes will encourage more women to donate their eggs and increase the chance of women becoming pregnant following fertility treatment.
The new 'egg giving' option, available at the centre, means that some women undergoing IVF would give all the eggs retrieved during the first cycle of their treatment to another woman, in return for a discount on their own treatment. A month later, when she has her second cycle of treatment, the woman would keep all of the eggs retrieved. The scheme is similar to egg sharing options offered by a number of clinics across the UK, where women donate some of their eggs retrieved in a single cycle in return for discounted treatment for themselves.
Professor Ian Craft, director of the London Fertility Centre, said that the new scheme would increase the chances of both donor and recipient becoming pregnant. He explained that this is because although a large number of eggs may be released during each IVF cycle, only a small number of these are likely to be viable. Women using all the eggs from a single cycle therefore have more chance of achieving pregnancy.
Critics of the scheme have said it is unethical and exploitative. Professor Lord Robert Winston said that egg giving is 'ethically unsound' and amounts to 'exploiting people who are desperate'. Professor Craft defended the scheme by saying that there has to be incentives for women to donate their eggs, as there are not enough altruistic donors. Some women 'wait up to two years for donated eggs', he said, adding 'in egg sharing schemes, there can be a conflict of interests for a clinician when the eggs are divided between the donor and the recipient'. A spokeswoman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said there was not much to choose between egg giving and egg sharing, stating 'the end result is the same. It is just the method which differs'.