The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has announced that it has started a review of the practice of 'egg giving'. Egg giving is a type of egg donation where patients waiting for IVF treatment undergo one cycle of egg retrieval and all the eggs collected in that cycle are donated for use by another woman. The woman then receives a second cycle at a reduced cost, keeping all the eggs retrieved for herself. This differs from 'egg sharing', a more commonly operated scheme, where half the eggs collected in one cycle are donated and the other half used by the patient, again in return for a reduction in the usual price of IVF.
Egg giving hit the UK headlines in June 2003 when the London Fertility Centre launched it as a new scheme in the hope of encouraging more women to donate eggs and increasing the chance of women becoming pregnant following fertility treatment. Professor Ian Craft, director of the Centre, then explained that the new scheme would increase the chances of both donor and recipient becoming pregnant, saying that this was because only a small number eggs released per cycle are likely to be viable. Women using all the eggs from a single cycle therefore, theoretically at least, have more chance of achieving pregnancy.
At the time, critics called egg giving unethical and exploitative, and a recent BBC 'Panorama' documentary also questioned the use of the practice. In June, a spokeswoman for the HFEA said there was not much to choose between egg giving and egg sharing, stating 'the end result is the same. It is just the method which differs'. But now, the authority is to review the scheme 'to establish under which conditions egg giving is suitable practice and provide guidance to clinics to ensure patients' interests are protected'. The authority is asking clinics currently offering an egg giving arrangement to send it details of their procedures. Following review, the outcome of the investigation will be made available by the end of 2003, as will any guidance issued to clinics on egg giving practices.
In a press release, Suzi Leather, Chair of the HFEA, said 'we are receiving a growing number of enquiries from patients and licensed clinics regarding egg giving arrangements. Whilst we do not want to limit the treatment choices available to women it is important that with any form of egg donation the women involved are given all the information needed to make informed decisions about their treatment and this includes details of any risks involved'.
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HFEA to review egg giving