Fertility clinics have been issued a warning on egg sharing by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) - the statutory body that licenses fertility clinics in the UK. Egg sharing schemes involve a woman receiving free or discounted IVF treatment in return for donating some of her eggs to another woman who cannot produce her own eggs. A handful of fertility clinics have instituted egg sharing in order to overcome the acute shortage of donated eggs in the UK.
In a letter sent to all fertility clinics, Ruth Deech - the HFEA chairman - makes clear that the Authority does not ethically approve of egg sharing, a practice which it came close to banning last year. 'While the Authority was persuaded that, if properly regulated and monitored, the practice could in some cases be beneficial to participants, it did not give ethical approval to such arrangements.' The letter was written in response to reports that some clinics have been presenting the HFEA's decision to let the practice continue as an expression of the Authority's approval in patient literature and advertisements. The HFEA decided not to ban egg sharing on condition that guidelines are drawn up to protect all the parties involved in such arrangements.
The Authority is consulting the British Fertility Society and the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and expects interim guidelines to be in place by the end of this year.