A British IVF centre is today raffling a human egg in a move labelled as “deplorable” by a pro-life expert.
Listen to the issue being debatedon BBC Radio 4′s Today programme
The Bridge Centre in London is promoting a new service which allows recipients to choose an IVF egg based on the egg donor’s race and intellect.
The raffle has been slammed as “something Hitler could only have dreamt of”.
An American organisation which has a partnership with The Bridge Centre selects eggs to be put on the IVF market, and pays donors up to £6,600 each.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the group, the Genetics and IVF Institute, based in Virginia, bars overweight people and smokers.
The eggs are all from 19 to 32-year-olds, and the donors must have a university degree.
Josephine Quintavalle, spokeswoman for pro-life group Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE), warned a future child would suffer from knowing they had been born as a result of a “blatantly commercial initiative”.
The Director of The Bridge Centre, Mohamed Menabawey, defended his organisation’s decision, saying it was just reacting to changes in supply and demand.
The raffle, to be held in a London hotel today, will give both an egg and the accompanying IVF treatment – worth up to £13,000 – as its first prize.
Mrs Quintavalle condemned the practice: “In no other branch of medicine would the ruthless exploitation of the vulnerable be tolerated.
“These women selling their eggs are taking a huge risk with their health and future fertility simply because they need the money.”
And, in a press statement, Mrs Quintavalle warned of possible repercussions.
She said: “It should be noted, too, that in their relatively short reproductive life cycle women have a limited number of eggs and one can well envisage (as has already happened) that many of the women selling their eggs today will have to resort to buying eggs for themselves later on as their own ovarian function has been seriously impaired.”
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Melanie McDonagh expressed dismay at the raffle.
She said: “As for the ethics of allowing would-be parents to raffle for the chance to choose the mother of their children on the basis of looks, ethnicity and intelligence, all I can say is that it’s something Hitler could only have dreamt of.”
Mr Menabawey, from The Bridge Centre, said: “I don’t see why it should go down badly at all.
“People should welcome the idea of having access to a high quality service.”
The centre’s procedure of implanting the paid-for egg overseas means it bypasses British law, which bans selling human eggs for a profit.
British law also says women who donate eggs must be traceable so a future child can find out who their genetic mother is.
The UK watchdog on human fertilisation said both the raffle and The Bridge Centre’s partnership with the US clinic were legal.
A spokesman from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said: “It is bypassing the rules because people can be paid for egg donation in America and eggs are often donated anonymously.”