Rules and compensation
Although reproductive medicine is a branch of medicine it requires to be treated specially and with caution.
Many western countries pertain to the rules and standards of regulatory bodies, such as HEFA and ESHREE, that dictate the functioning of fertility medicine. Several countries, such as the USA and UK have formulated their own ‘egg sale’ policies. In the USA, research using human eggs, has the support of the government. Women may, therefore, donate for both reproduction and research. However, the donors who contribute eggs for the purpose of reproduction are paid exorbitantly, while those who donate their eggs for research are barely reimbursed.
Policy makers content that this disparity is to prevent exploitation of women who belong to certain ethnicity, color and financial background. The potential for commodification has alerted US scientists who have pledged that SCNT will not be carried out on purchased human eggs. Therefore research using human eggs is solely dependent on altruistically donated eggs.
In India, fertility medicine is a lucrative enterprise with almost all cities boasting of several fertility centers. However these centers are being given the ‘free run’, with no regulatory body or rules to monitor or control them. In 2002-2003 a 19-member team belonging to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) drafted national guidelines, with a proposal for legislation of the same.
Two of the highlights of the guidelines are:
- Egg / sperm donation and surrogacy among blood relatives and friends is banned
- Offspring has the right to know the identity of the donor of egg or sperm
Many feel that the first clause is likely to commodify human gametes, while the second clause will infringe on the right to privacy of the donor. Medical experts have asked for these proposals to be reconsidered, as they are likely to increase the current paucity for donors. A public debate must be called, and opinions from various people belonging to different sectors must be endorsed before converting these guidelines into laws.