Bioethics Discussion Blog: Commercialization of Eggs and Sperm for Reproduction: Is It Ethical?

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Commercialization of Eggs and Sperm for Reproduction: Is It Ethical?

Here is a thread and comments from my now inactive "Bioethics Discussion Pages" originally posted in 2000. The most recent posting by a visitor today is at the top of the page and the oldest is at the bottom. I would be interested reading from my visitors to this bioethics blog the pros and cons of selling eggs and sperm. ..Maurice.



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A highschool student wrote me about an issue which is worthy of discussion in these days when methods to overcome infertility problems are becoming more popular and sophisticated. In addition, some families are looking for ways to produce smarter and more attractive children. As there has been ethical discussion about selling organs for transplant, there has been interest to consider the ethics of selling gametes.

An interesting point brought up by the student was what happens if the purchasers of the gamete finds that the final product does not meet expectations. Who is to be held responsible and what will be the attitude of the parents about the child?


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Date: Tue, Mar 7, 2000 9:59 PM From: ricababes@hotmail.com To: DoktorMo@aol.com

Dear Dr. Mo,

I am a high school student who was recently assigned to complete a project on a bioethics topic. What first caught my attention was the commercialization of eggs and/or sperm for reproduction, so I researched the topic and would like to share the insight that I gained.

I was really bothered by the fact that selling and "donating" eggs and sperm is actually becoming a business. People are paying up to $150,000 to buy eggs or sperm from supermodels. One sperm bank offers sperm donations from only scientists with an I.Q. of over 135. Healthy, young, Ivy-league donors are being offered up to $50,000 for their "donations." Need some quick cash? I'll bet if your good-looking and score above a 28 on your ACT test, you could get at least $1,000 for your sperm!

What is evolving from this new trend is a market in which people are competing to get the best genes and those on the other end are trying to make the most money. So, what's wrong with that? We are talking about kids here- remember?!

If we allow this to continue, I fear children will become commodities. Many times I have spent large sums of money on something-let's say a new stereo- only to be disappointed. "I spent 200 bucks on that!" Is this how parents are going to react when their child, born of genes from a rocket scientist, comes home with a below average report card or is not as smart as they hoped he/she would be? Children are a miracle of nature and I believe that parents should love their children for who they are, unconditionally. Each person is precious and we should put an end to trying to place a monetary value on genes, children, and life. As the Mastercard slogan goes, "A newborn child who you can love and call your own: PRICELESS."


Here is the question:

Is it ethical to commercialize and sell eggs and sperm for reproduction?



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Date: Thu, Aug 10, 2006 7:12 PM From:livinsobo@earthlink.net To: DoktorMo@aol.com

In response to your question is it ethical to sell your eggs or sperm? That is what America is about, freedoms. We in America can wear what we want, say what we want, and pretty much do what we want as long as we don't hurt anyone in the process. What better place to be, in some countries women do not have rights, people wake up to gunshots and bombs. We live in a wonderful country and are protected by a military that upholds our freedom of choices.

While I think it is crazy to spend $150,000 on supermodel genes in hope that your child turns out beautiful, I personally don't think it is unethical. Think about this, who is the idiot paying for the supermodel eggs, and there is no guarantee your child will be beautiful. As far as the rocket scientist sperm and the child being a brainiac, I am a firm believer that smarts have alot to do with the way one is raised, that old question nature vs. nurture pops into my mind. Many people are quick to pass the buck on why there child is bad or slow but when a child is wonderful they accept the responsibility, well parents need to take a good hard look at themselves and assume responsibility for the good and the bad.

I too, have contemplated selling my eggs, and here is the reason why, I do not plan to have any children at this time and nor do I feel that I would be able to offer a child the kind of home that he or she would need, however there are people out in this world that deserve to have children and can't. Also think about this, donating and receiving eggs can be an evasive process, the parent that goes through taking hormones, drugs, and possibility that it may not take the first go around, deserve it and would probably love that child more than anything.

So next time you are sitting in biology class in front of that state of the art microscope or that great computer that you have at your disposal, think about how that technology has helped you, and while that is on a different level than the topic at hand, that same technology that has helped you in school has helped people have babies, cure certain diseases, and hopefully cure something like AIDS or CANCER. Its all about progress. We can not live in the dark ages.

Sincerely
Future EGG DONOR
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Date: Thu, Jun 26, 2003 9:16 PM From: mistycrims@alltel.net To: DoktorMo@aol.com
I do not feel like this is a good idea because human life should not be used forpersonal gain. But are eggs and sperm seperately human life? I find it interesting that society generally sees prostitution as unethical but may argue "my eggs, my body, my right to sale". I believe this business could lead to more controversial issues. Like, can a woman sale her unborn child? Misty Crims


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Date: Fri, May 16, 2003 4:55 PM From: philosopher@paradox3000.com To: DoktorMo@aol.com
The ethical and moral nature of selling ones reproductive capability are completely arbitrary and specific to both the context and the culture at the time of the trade.

Any pretty woman can go out and seduce an intelligent man to "collect" his sperm, and I would bet a rich man could convince even a beautiful woman to mate and reproduce with him (it's not uncommon). How is this different than selling your cells? It isn't. Is the offspring of such a union less valuable than a union of "true love", of course not.

What is important at this time is that we are so ignorant as to the biological nature of properties like intelligence, beauty, or personality that to try to manipulate them is all but futile.

Why then shouldn't we give people better control over their reproductive power? Why not try and make people smarter, stronger, better? Religious fascists might object based upon their arbitrary beliefs, but we know that when they are faced with the fact that their offspring may be retarded while others will have genius level I.Q.s, their minds will change.

There are objective scientific reasons to regulate some of these new technologies. For instance you wouldn't want a man selling his sperm to millions of women. This would reduce genetic diversity and thus long term survivability. You wouldn't want people to misrepresent themselves and thus their genetic abilities, so smart buyers will use independent third parties to test the value of the genetic donors. Overpopulation is a world wide problem, perhaps we should start testing and licensing parents, too?


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Date: Tue, Mar 18, 2003 8:41 AM From: CurtsT@leb.k12.in.us To: DoktorMo@aol.com
Yes. I believe that it is ethical to sell your sperm or eggs for a profit. They are part of your body and you own them. Also you could be giving them to people who could not use their own eggs or sperm to have a child and want to provide a loving home. Maybe some of the motives behind this are wrong but that dosen't make this immoral or unethical. I do believe that for now it is not acceptable to society but as history has shown society is not that difficult to persude with time.


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Date: Thu, Feb 28, 2002 8:00 AM From: dpmartin@owc.net To: DoktorMo@aol.com
We should do two things. First, we should take care of the children we have. Second, we should minimize the genetic defects in the children we give birth to in the future. If commercialization of eggs and sperm is accomplished in a manner consistent with meeting these goals, then it is acceptable. The recent article in JAMA about the woman who chose to avoid having a child with early onset Alzheimer's disease is, in my opinion, a proper use of genetics in reproduction.


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Date: Sat, Feb 9, 2002 11:47 PM From: lettaylor@pisp.net To: DoktorMo@aol.com
As a Christian I feel that this is wrong. The Designer did not have this in mind when He made humans in His image. While humanity is learning much about life, we will fail the test if we do not learn that it is precious and NOT FOR SALE! I know that the original design was made by One far greater than ourselves and we cannot replicate that design without severe ramifications. Consider the atom!


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Date: Thu, Jan 17, 2002 7:14 AM From: bearmccloud@attbi.com To: DoktorMo@aol.com
NO!!!

It is not ethical to sell sperm. It is natures way of keeping mankind from being overpopulated to make some people infertile. If we were all fertile and all capable of creating children anytime we wanted to then the entire world would be like china is today. Overcrouded and under reasourced.


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Date: Sun, Jul 1, 2001 1:44 PM From: aim_2000@swbell.net To: DoktorMo@aol.com
This was interesting to me. I don't believe that everyone who is purchasing the sperm and eggs are doing so just to have smarter or more beautiful children. Some are doing so because it may be there only alternative. It is difficult to draw the line between allowing those people the ability to purchase gametes, and not the others who are doing it for personal gain. And by the way, just because someone is genetically inclined to be more intelligent does not mean that he or she will be. it takes lots of love and attention on the part of the parents to foster and encourage children in the love of learning.


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Date: Mon, Jan 29, 2001 3:25 AM From: cailab@tin.it To: DoktorMo@aol.com
Hello, we're two students of a high school and we'd like to say our opinion about eggs/sperma donation or sale.We think that selling eggs or sperm is immoral,because it's not a natural way to have children. We mean, there are so many orphans who need to be taken care of that it's useless "build" children in a scientific way. Nowadays man is trying to take control of the world, but we think this is a sort of "upsidedown" of natural order.


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Date: Tue, Jan 9, 2001 3:27 AM From: cailab@tin.it To: DoktorMo@aol.com
We are two students,we are interested about this discussion and we have decided to give our opinion. We desagree with the commercialisation of eggs and sperm.We believe that parents should appreciate their children for who they are without thinking only of their good qualities.They have also toappreciate their defauts because they are "BLOOD ON BLOOD" as a song of Jon Bon Jovi says.


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Date: Tue, Mar 28, 2000 7:38 PM From: sstellje@mesastate.edu To: DoktorMo@aol.com
Dear Dr. Mo: I am a nursing student and I was browsing your site for an assignment for one of my classes. When I read the topic "Is it ethical to commercialize and sell eggs and sperm for reproduction?" I was intrigued. The reason I was intrigued is because I also work in childcare, and every day I see parents and children and the way that they interact. There are so many unwanted, "oops" children in this world that it is heart breaking. I recently had an experience with a young mother who was planning on giving her third child up for adoption. Her two other children both had some sort of disabilities and were adopted out, and she did not want to "deal with" another one. However, when she had her child it ended up being a perfect little girl with no disabilities, so she decided to keep her. When I first read the comment of the high school student who wrote to you I did not think at first that someone would want a "refund" on a child. But, then I remembered this young mother who had no trouble adopting out her other two children because of disabilities and keeping the perfect child. Why wouldn't it be possible? In our world today it is sad to say that I do believe people would try to get a "refund" or even sue somebody because their child did not come out the way they were supposed to. What about the children who are created from the super models, if they are not pretty enough or glamorous when they grow up will the parents be upset? What if the child from the sperm of the scientist ends up having mental disabilities or an IQ below average, will those parents be upset and demand compensation? At first you would think no. However you would then think, did these parents really purchase the sperm and eggs to have a child or a trophy? I would hope it was to have a child, but more often than we would like it is to have a trophy. There are so many unwanted children that need to be adopted to families, that it seems really selfish for these people to spend thousands of dollars on eggs or sperm instead of on adopting and raising a child who really needs a home. I personally have a slim chance of having children, does that mean I should go out and seek the perfect egg so I can have a child? No, for me it means that I should look at the children in this world, this country that need homes and provide that for them. I should spend those thousands of dollars that would have been spent on those eggs and put it towards a child who needs a home, education, clothes, and most of all love.

3 Comments:

At Friday, August 11, 2006 4:38:00 PM, Anonymous Moof said...

Dr. Bernstein, I saw this post last night, and knew that I would need to take some time to think it over.

Today, I find that I'm having as much trouble staying "on topic" as I was yesterday. I would like to answer your question without referring to other controversial subjects, and I'm having some difficulty in doing so.

On many levels, I think that this is egregiously wrong. It's not that I don't understand that a woman who can't otherwise conceive could be given the gift of carrying and giving birth to a child ... or that a barren family could watch the miracle of life from conception to birth. I've had four children of my own - who am I to want to deprive another person of the experience?

However, we are human beings. One the things that separates us from the lower animals is our capacity for reasoning, and for maintaining our human dignity. Selling our sperm and ova ... commercializing life ... it may be convenient, but I don't feel that it's right. Where do we draw the line when we do this sort of thing?

And how far can we carry our commercialization of life? Sell sperm and ova to help otherwise sterile people have children? How about if we're offered twice as much by a laboratory who wants to try to raise fetuses in artificial wombs? What about fetuses for body parts?

Why can't someone who would have aborted a healthy baby give it to a couple who want a newborn instead?

I'm sorry - I knew I'd have a terrible time staying on topic. To me, the reasons for not doing this sort of thing are as much because of the surrounding issues as they are because of the basic issue itself.

I agree with your earliest commenter: "[...] I should look at the children in this world, this country that need homes and provide that for them. I should spend those thousands of dollars that would have been spent on those eggs and put it towards a child who needs a home, education, clothes, and most of all love."

That is human dignity.

 
At Friday, August 11, 2006 8:19:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Moof, well put.

Another consideration is the gender inequality of the sperm/egg procurement risks vs "donor" benefit. The aquisition of sperm requires virtually no risk in the process of procurement from a male. On the other hand, for the female, the procurement process of eggs has substantial physical risk. Are the risk/benefit ratios equal. Not knowing the precise payments for each service, I would strongly doubt it even if there was a 10 times greater in payment to the female. Another problem in the utilization of the sperm or eggs is the later ethical and legal responsibilities with regard to the future child of those who allow their own gametes to be used by others. Later identificatioon of the sources of the gametes has reportedly been made by the recipients in some cases. I don't think these responsibilities have totally been settled.

There is no commodification of organs obtained and used in the United States for transplant. The donation has an altruistic basis. Why not the same for procurement of sperm and eggs? ..Maurice.

 
At Saturday, August 12, 2006 7:25:00 AM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Here is an example of what I am suggesting about the gamete "donor" having "ethical and legal responsibilities with regard to the future child." The following is an extract of an article published today in the Detroit News.

Michelle Jorgenson thought it was odd that her 8-year-old daughter Cheyenne -- conceived with sperm from a mystery man known to Jorgenson only as Donor 3066 -- was extremely sensitive to sound and walked on her toes.
Jorgenson started checking on the Internet and soon learned of at least six other children around the country who were fathered by 3066. And of those seven, she discovered to her alarm, two have autism, and two others, Cheyenne included, show signs of a sensory disorder tied closely to autism.


Cappy Rothman, medical director and co-founder of the California Cryobank, said 3066 has been put on "restricted" status -- meaning women can still use his sperm, but are warned that problems could arise in their children.
Rothman said the sperm bank tests for major infectious illnesses but not more exotic conditions, and it is not required by law to do so. As for its privacy policies, Rothman said it does not disclose donor identities without consent.
Arthur Caplan, a University of Pennsylvania bioethicist, said the sperm bank field exists "somewhere between the Wild West and chaos," with no regulations regarding privacy or screening for noninfectious diseases.


Any questions? Any comments? ..Maurice.

 

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