- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2007

CHICAGO (AP) — Human egg donation was a rarity not so long ago, but heightened demand for eggs and rising compensation for donors are prompting more young women to consider it.

Jennifer Dziura, a 28-year-old New Yorker, is one of them.

She received $8,000 to donate eggs in fall 2005 and hopes she will be chosen again before the private egg broker with whom she has registered considers her too old. She realizes prospective parents who view her profile might think it a minus that her father is adopted, allowing for little medical history from his side. She also figures some are looking for a blonde, instead of a brunette.

“But, hey, I have perfect SAT scores,” Miss Dziura, an aspiring comedian and model, says with a chuckle.

As more older women look for help getting pregnant, younger women have become increasingly willing to part with their eggs. Some do it to help relatives and friends, or from a sense of altruism, but others acknowledge money is a big factor in their decision, prompting critics to worry that they are helping drive an unregulated market for human tissue.

In 1996, women in federally monitored programs donated eggs slightly more than 3,800 times. That number has risen steadily, to more than 10,000 in 2004, the most recent year for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has compiled data.

A decade ago, Dr. Joel Brasch, a fertility specialist in the Chicago area, had to work hard to recruit five or 10 young women for his own practice’s donor pool — but not anymore.

The money is seen as compensation for time and trouble. Among other things, donors learn to inject themselves with hormones to induce multiple ovulation.

“Everyone does it for the money,” says Miss Dziura. “No one would do that for free … for a stranger.”

The American Society of Reproductive Medicine has set a compensation guideline of $5,000, with a limit of $10,000 for special cases — if, for instance, a recipient wants eggs of rare ancestry.

Still, some egg brokers are ignoring suggestions for a cap on compensation and paying women more. “Egg Donors Wanted” ads are common on the Internet, in college newspapers and on city trains. One ethicist says that eggs have quickly become “commoditized.”

“It does feel a little more like the Wild West than it ought to,” says Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics. He sees the problem growing as states such as California move closer to funding major stem-cell research, requiring more donor eggs.

“We worry that we offer people so much money that they are blind to the risk and their motivation is strictly the money,” Dr. Kahn says, noting that this is the very reason that it is illegal to sell an organ, such as a kidney, for donation.

“I’m not comfortable saying we should start that with human eggs,” he said.

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