Last week there was considerable media focus on the story of a Canadian woman who is freezing eggs for future use by her 7 year old daughter who suffers from Turner’s Syndrome, a condition which is usually associated with infertility.
One can understand the anguish of a mother in having to accept that her daughter suffers from congenital infertility, but donating her eggs for her daughter’s use is not an acceptable solution.
I think much of our instinctive unease about this proposal is related to the confusion of traditional family roles that this donation would entail. Eggs are not the equivalent of organ donation as some have carelessly suggested. Kidneys and liver do not turn into babies, but eggs certainly do.
Is it natural for a young woman to carry in pregnancy her own half sibling, as any such pregnancy would be? The egg donor might like to describe herself as the grandmother but the genetic reality is that she would always remain the biological mother of the offspring, and the conception would have been achieved using her son-in-law’s sperm. I think it is understandable that we feel uncomfortable when we start to unravel this story, and we should be particularly concerned about the psychological welfare of any baby born as a result.
It is difficult to argue that pregnancy itself is always ideal for somebody battling the multitude of health problems that are associated with Turner’s Syndrome. Later on she may very well not to want to get pregnant, but the gift of eggs from her mother would make such a decision difficult. She may grow up with a sense of obligation to accept the gift, coerced into giving birth to her half-sibling.
Pragmatically the mother’s eggs are unlikely to last so long in the freezer anyway, and hopefully the next decades will produce less controversial
solutions to women suffering from serious infertility. Whatever lies ahead, this particular distortion of the natural order should not be encouraged.