A London fertility clinic has attracted criticism over its scheme offering women free IVF treatment in return for donating their eggs. Speaking at a conference last week, the scientific director of London's Cromwell IVF and Fertility Clinic, Dr Kamal Ahuja, said that the practice cut 'gross wastage' of eggs in IVF clinics. But Ian Craft, who originally set up the centre, said that egg sharing schemes were 'wrong in principle', and that a 'complete re-evaluation' of the practice was required.
Egg sharing was started to help couples who could not afford IVF treatment, and as a way of tackling the shortage of donated eggs. The scheme, which has been approved by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), is also on offer at the Cromwell's satellite centres throughout the UK. The recently-opened centre in Darlington, County Durham joins others in Swansea and Tyne & Wear. Josephine Quintavalle, of the pro-life group Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE) said of the scheme: 'This is clearly taking advantage of poorer people. The rich can get their hands on eggs, whatever the cost to the donor'. But Dr Ahuja argues that any socioeconomic imbalance is evened out by more generous provision of fertility treatment on the NHS in Newcastle and Darlington. 'I don't believe there is any kind of North-South divide' he added.
Dr Ahuja said that the number of fertility treatments using donor eggs had risen from about 400 a year in the mid-1990s to nearly 2000 in 2001, and predicted a further rise to about 5000 per year by 2005. HFEA guidelines on the practice of egg sharing to meet this increasing demand say that the process should be anonymous, with neither donor nor recipient being told of the outcome of the other's treatment. Recent figures show a success rate of 31.5 per cent for recipients and 35.7 per cent for egg donors.