Page URL:

Women donate their eggs to research for cut-price IVF

14 January 2008
Appeared in BioNews 440

A UK fertility centre has launched a scheme to provide women with cut-price IVF treatment in return for donating some of their eggs to research. The 'egg-sharing' initiative is being offered by the Newcastle NHS Fertility Centre and the North-East England Stem Cell Institute (Nesci) and will contribute £1500 - around half the cost of one cycle of IVF treatment - to women who give half their eggs to research.

The scheme was approved by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in July 2006 and received public support following a consultation in January 2007. It is intended to make the benefits of IVF more accessible to infertile women whilst addressing the shortage of high quality eggs for human stem cell research. Recruiting started in September 2007 and targets women in the North-East of England aged 21 to 35. So far, 15 women have been found suitable for the scheme out of 100 who came forward. Six of these are due to start their fertility treatment this month. Volunteers are selected after testing and extensive counselling.

Professor Alison Murdoch, who is leading the project, said that 'like all UK research, it will be strictly regulated at a local and national level by ethics committees and the principles of research governance. We expect this to open the door to some infertile women who may now find it less difficult to meet the cost of IVF'. She emphasised that 'the most important thing is the patient's fertility treatment' - if less than six eggs are collected, the volunteer will be allowed to keep them all in order to maximise their chance of pregnancy. All the women approved for the scheme have had previous IVF treatment, enabling the researchers to select women likely to produce high numbers of good quality eggs.

The donated eggs will be used in SCNT experiments to derive embryonic stem cell lines from patients with incurable diseases such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. This strategy, often referred to as 'therapeutic cloning', is used to study the development of these diseases and to test new drugs. A previous scheme allowing researchers to ask for unpaid donations of 'left-over' eggs resulted in insufficient numbers of eggs being contributed to the project.

The new scheme, paid for by the government-funded Medical Research Council, is the first time scientists in the UK have been permitted to offer monetary compensation in return for egg donations for research purposes. This has sparked much dissent amongst pro-life lobbies. Dr Callum MacKellar, director of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics voiced concern that 'this is an exploitation of poor couples. Rich people will not have to be presented with such a choice because they are able to pay for IVF treatment'.

Cut price fertility treatment for women who donate eggs for controversial cloning research
The Daily Mail |  8 January 2008
Share your eggs and get half-price IVF
The Sunderland Echo |  8 January 2008
Women come forward for cut price IVF to help research
Newcastle University |  9 January 2008
Women donate eggs for cheaper IVF
BBC News Online |  8 January 2008
2 April 2012 - by Rachel Lloyd 
As I sit at my computer on this glorious Sunday morning to write this review, I suddenly realise the coincidence of the day: it is Mother's Day. Today of all days it seems very apt to be writing a review of Sarah Rayner's novel about two women and their quest to become mothers....
7 July 2008 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
Two announcements made last week have important implications for the future progress of human stem cell research in the UK. Both were related to research involving 'therapeutic cloning' - the creation of stem cell lines from patients with incurable diseases (such as Alzheimer's and cardiomyopathy) in order to...
22 June 2008 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
US stem cell researchers have called for prohibitions on the payment of compensation to egg donors to be removed if an egg shortage crisis is to be avoided. In an article published in Nature last week, Kevin Eggan and Douglas Melton from Harvard University's Stem Cell Institute...
16 September 2007 - by MacKenna Roberts 
Women who donate some of their eggs to stem cell research will receive half-price discounted IVF treatment - a £1,500 stipend reducing the costs of one cycle of IVF treatment from £3,000 - at the Newcastle Fertility Centre. The Medical Research Council has recently awarded £150,000 funding to subsidise...
26 February 2007 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has decided to allow women to donate eggs for research, regardless of whether they are undergoing IVF treatment. The decision also permits women to be reimbursed up to £250 for expenses incurred, such as travel or child care - but...
21 September 2006 - by Veronica English 
The British Medical Association (BMA)'s Medical Ethics Committee (MEC) recently had a long and fascinating debate about egg donation for research. The debate was much broader than the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)'s consultation document, looking also at related issues such as payment for donation of other...
31 July 2006 - by Heidi Nicholl 
A controversial scheme to extend the practise of 'egg sharing' has been approved by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to provide greater numbers of eggs for embryonic stem (ES) cell research. The practise of egg-sharing is currently allowed where a woman may receive discounted...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.