UK Fertility Firm Targets Cambridge Girls For Eggs
Leaflets were stuck in the university pigeonholes, making an emotional plea to help a couple unable to have children.
It said: "We are looking for a real-life angel to be our egg donor."
The leaflets were produced by Altrui, an egg broking company based in Hawes, North Yorkshire, the Daily Mail reported.
Critics warned that young women are often unaware of the risks of egg donation, and a fertility expert said the firm's tactics were 'unacceptable'.
Donors have to take drugs to stimulate egg production, and complications may cause death in rare cases.
At the beginning of the summer term two weeks ago, Cambridge students found the company's leaflets stuffed in their pigeonholes, asking: "If you are compassionate, kind, healthy and between 18 and 35 years old, could you help us? We can imagine no greater gift than the chance to love a child."
The flyers said the couple, themselves Cambridge graduates, were unable to have children because of 'a rare genetic disorder that causes repeated miscarriages'.
On the firm's website, potential donors are told: "It is illegal to accept any payment for your egg donation in the UK.
"Having said that, in order that you should not be out of pocket, compensation is permitted.
"The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority recently reviewed the situation. In recognition of the inconvenience, commitment and time given by an egg donor in going through the donation process, they raised the maximum compensation to 750 pounds. This came into effect on April 1, 2012,"it added.
Last night the medical director of Create fertility clinic in London, Geeta Nargund, said: "Young women students who are financially vulnerable are being targeted to have unnecessary medical procedures that carry health risks. It's completely unacceptable.
"I hoped this would never happen in this country, but we have imported this tactic from the US," she said.
Josephine Quintavalle of the campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics said: "This is not donation, this is the buying and selling of human eggs.
"It raises the issue of eugenics because, just like in the States, students are being targeted because they have higher IQs. More brains equals better value.
"There is not enough discussion about the risks to healthy women who have to take serious drugs they don't need, which have risks to them and possibly any children born as a result," Quintavalle added.
Professor Adam Balen, of the British Fertility Society, said egg donation must remain an altruistic activity.
He said: "It is not appropriate to target women in this way. Egg donation should only be offered by appropriately recognized clinics with full counseling. Women should come forward voluntarily."
However, the founder of Altrui, Alison Bagshawe, said the couple had asked if they could distribute the firm's leaflets themselves.
She said they had obtained permission from the students' union and all Cambridge colleges except one, where the dean said he feared the leaflets could upset any student who had suffered a miscarriage or had an abortion.