Skip to comments.Research: a Health Hazard
Posted on 06/16/2013 5:42:35 AM PDT by Kaslin
Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Calif., believes that if her Assembly Bill 926 passes, researchers will be able to pay egg donors as they develop medical advances that can help all women. To her, the bill is an issue of simple fairness -- gender equity, really.
Since a well-intended 2006 bill banned researchers from paying egg donors more than expense reimbursement, researchers have been at a competitive disadvantage, while affluent couples can offer fertile women top dollar. UCSF Professor Marcelle Cedars lamented at a hearing of the state Senate Health Committee on Wednesday that the status quo robs potential egg donors of "the rewards of contributing to scientific knowledge."
Alice Crisci, a cancer survivor and patient advocate for Fertile Action, testified that the ban on research payments "is discriminatory. It assumes all women are incapable of making their own decisions about their reproductive well-being if fair compensation is allowed." Researchers compensate men for donated sperm, she added, so it's only fair to compensate egg donors.
That sperm-egg parity argument is so bogus. When men donate sperm, they risk second thoughts about unknown, random offspring, but they do not risk serious medical side effects. Egg donation, on the other hand, can be hazardous to your health. The New York Times reports, "Egg donors can suffer serious side effects from the powerful hormones needed to generate multiple eggs." And: "The most significant risk is ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, which can cause bloating, abdominal pain and, rarely, blood clots, kidney failure and other life-threatening ailments."
Let me repeat: Taking hormones to stimulate egg production can result in life-threatening ailments.
Sindy Wei, now an M.D. and Ph.D., was in medical school when she donated eggs. She liked the idea of helping others, and as a cash-strapped student, she liked the $5,000 she was paid. It was a bad deal. After one painful cycle, doctors extracted 60 eggs from her. She got sick and went to the hospital. She was bleeding internally. If she had flown home, as the fertility center told her to do, she believes she would have died.
Years later, Wei developed "unexplained infertility." She endured more hormone treatments and surgery. "The way I was treated as an egg donor was very different from the way I was treated as an infertility patient," Wei testified. As an infertility patient, she had control over her medical care; as a donor, she found that doctors ignored her concerns. They just wanted eggs, the more the better.
Wei's testimony followed that of Jennifer Schneider, a physician whose "athletic, non-smoking, vegetarian" daughter developed cancer seven years after she became an egg donor. "I was shocked to learn that no one had ever studied the potential long-term risks of egg donation, especially the risk of high-dose hormones given to healthy young women," she told the room.
AB926 supporters testified that no definitive studies have proved a link between egg donation and cancer. Opponents responded that doctors don't want to know about the downside.
Some fertility doctors "can honestly say they haven't seen any problems," because they do not want to know and never bother to find out, Diane Beeson of the Alliance for Humane Biotechnology told me. A 2007 Institute of Medicine review cited acute and chronic risks from egg donation as it warned that very little is known about the long-term health effects on donors.
A committee analysis cited the 2007 review, yet still the committee passed AB926 by a 6-to-1 vote. That's right, lawmakers know there are risks to egg donation, but they voted to expand the practice anyway.
On Thursday, Bonilla told me that the testimony of Wei, Schneider and others moved her, but it's on the unregulated fertility side, "where you have the issue of enticement." Researchers aren't in it for the money. And: "There's no change with the risk in what my bill is doing. There is risk when you do any kind of research."
Except more women will be enticed to risk their health, as researchers, unlike rich couples, don't care if egg donors have a college degree.
As we talked, Bonilla acknowledged the possible benefits of a registry to log possible side effects on egg donors. "What I've learned from my study on this bill is, we really need more legislation," she said, especially on the fertility side. "I would totally take that kind of bill on myself."
Why wait? This is, after all, a serious women's health issue.
Full disclosure: My husband, Wesley J. Smith, is a consultant for the Center for Bioethics and Culture. The center's president, Jennifer Lahl, has testified against AB926.
If Professor Barney got desperate enough....he’d rig up some research project to suggest that eating sauerkraut and drinking Doctor Pepper....would delay menopause. After a month or two...some foundation would appear, and put two million dollars into the Professor’s project. Figure it’d take three years to squandor the money....so the Projessor and his five helpers would just sit around....eating most of the sauerkraut they bought, and drinking cases of Doctor Pepper. They’d produce a paper, and move onto the next research project.
I think I read about that study on FR. Most of the comments were on the order of, “Why on earth would you want to delay menopause?” and the rest were, “Our freepin’ tax dollars at work ... no, wait, at least it’s in Canada this time.”
I'm kind of amazed by her ignorance. I had freshman Biology and Physiology in college, and know that the number of eggs a woman carries is determined in utero, before the girl is born. If you run out of eggs, that's it. 60 eggs is about 5 years of fertility given away.
A quick search on “human ova number” gave the information that a woman at puberty has about 300,000 oocytes.
Actually, that is quite true (that researchers aren't in it for the money).
Most basic research is done by graduate students, who typically earn very little as compared to other BA/BS level college graduates, below $20,000/year. A post doctoral researcher would earn between $36,000 and $61,000. The average PhD salary in 2013 is $93,000.
It takes around 6 or 7 years to get a research PhD. That is a lot of time to spend still in school earning a pittance while other college graduates' average starting salaries are $44,000.
I have read analyses that there is *no* financial benefit to earning a research PhD, since it keeps a person in school (graduate and post-doctoral) for such a long time at low pay.
Any MD earns more than a PhD. Family practitioners, the lowest paid MDs, start at an average of $138,000.
To make a long story short, no one chooses research as a career for the money. They do it for the love of advancement of human knowledge.
Please note: I am making *no* comment on egg donation.
So women can kill babies, so other women are forced to buy babies. Is there anything that the Left hasn’t screwed up in this country?
Without getting into the philosophical argument about the ultimate purpose of use of the eggs (life vs. research)it seems to me that the market should be deregulated and the price will be marked to market.
You could even have a daily ‘Egg Exhange” and futures options.