The Medical Research Council has agreed to part-fund infertility treatment (to the tune of £1,500 per cycle) for women at the Newcastle Fertility Centre, in exchange for eggs to be harvested for research.
We have already commented on the the HFEA’s decision last year to allow in principle such egg-sharing protocols and the proposal remains reprehensible. Attempts to suggest that this is not cash for eggs are pure humbug; cash or kind, the financial and ethical implications are the same.
A wise recommendation in force across Europe actually forbids the commercialisation of any human tissue, including human gametes. Given the health risks involved, opposition to the sale of human eggs is overwhelming.
Suggesting that Nurse This or Nurse That will counsel patients considering this treatment in a neutral environment, as we have already heard from Newcastle, is ludicrous.
Think for one moment of the anguish of infertile women, longing for treatment they cannot afford, and what such an offer would mean to them. It would be impossible to create a situation of neutrality under such circumstances, and nor should we attempt to.
Egg donation is a risky business and the only concern of any doctor involved in fertility treatment should be the good health and welfare of the patient. It is in the interests of women undergoing IVF to produce as few eggs as possible, thus minimising the very real dangers associated with ovarian stimulation. With the current proposals they will, instead, be exposed to far greater risks than necessary as researchers try to get their hands on as many eggs as possible. It is appalling that at the Newcastle Centre for Life and the University there are such close relationships between IVF specialists and embryo research scientists. This creates a dynamic of continual conflict of interest.
The MRC decision is iniquitous. If the Government is prepared to re-direct public funds in this way, then it makes a nonsense of their reluctance to implement fully the NICE regulations regarding infertility treatment for NHS patients. If there is any taxpayers’ money going begging it should be invested in helping the patients directly with absolutely no strings attached.
Of course women will be coerced by these proposals, and they will probably find themselves producing far more eggs than is advisable, exposing themselves to unnecessary risks which go completely against the current trends of modern IVF.
CORE sees this as a discreditable exploitation of women to further the agenda of the embryonic stem cell industry and should be repudiated.
07968 167323 Josephine Quintavalle