The European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution last week that calls for a ban on trade in human egg cells and for egg donation procedures to be more strictly regulated.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were looking at the issue following a number of recent news reports, some of which purported to reveal a clinic in Romania specialising in egg donations in return for payment from people who travelled from other parts of the European Union (EU), especially the UK. MEPs said that the risk to women donating eggs - including ovarian hyperstimulation - were too great to allow eggs to continue to be procured in this way. They said that the provision of financial incentives could cause some women to consider selling their eggs, resulting in risks to her own life and health, and the possibility of falling 'prey to organised crime networks that traffic in people and organs'.
Last week, further news stories reported that a Bucharest clinic - Globalart - that apparently 'sends mail-order eggs to British couples' is under police investigation, despite having closed down since the original news stories were published in December 2004. The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) had already investigated the clinic, after it noticed that export licence requests from Romania to the UK had increased. The HFEA found that egg donors at the clinic were being paid between £200 and £300, but concluded that this was in line with its own guidance that donors must only be paid 'reasonable expenses'.
MEPs said that they had previously condemned all trafficking in human body parts and that a directive issued in 2004 required Member States to ensure that tissue and cell donations take place on a voluntary - rather than paid - basis. The EP has now called upon the European Commission to review national legislative provisions on egg donation within Member States, particularly with regard to compensation and payments.
The resolution also praises the declaration on human cloning issued by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly last week, which expressly states that cloning could lead to the exploitation of women for their eggs. The EP encourages the Commission to withdraw any financial support for cloning projects within EU programmes. It also wants the Commission to apply the 'principle of subsidiarity' to all human embryo and embryonic stem cell research projects, so that Member States who allow such research 'finance it with their own national budgets'. The EP says that the EU should focus on research using adult or umbilical cord blood stem cells, as such research is authorised by all Member States and has 'already enabled patients to be treated successfully'.