Regenerative Medicine

Egg Harvesting: Threat to Women's Health (3/07)

Egg harvesting and Embryonic Stem-cell Research Pose Serious Threat to Women’s Health

A congressional hearing last Thursday raised awareness on the risks to women’s health and fertility by in vitro fertilization (IVF), human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, where experts testified the techniques and drugs involved posed unacceptable risks to women.

Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) co-sponsored the congressional briefing “Trading on the Female Body” March 8, International Women's Day, where health experts, and a mother who lost her daughter from health complications from IVF, testified on the severe dangers to women’s lives posed by fertility and human cloning technologies.

"Current practices follow a historical pattern of exposing women to risks that prove ultimately unacceptable," said Diane Beeson, PhD., chairwoman of the group “Hands Off Our Ovaries”, at a Capitol Hill press conference.

"The harvesting of multiple eggs often involves the administration of drugs that have not been approved for this purpose," she continued. "Also these drugs have not been adequately studied for their long-term effects on women despite research providing some evidence of significant harm to women in both the short term and long term."

A recent study by scientists at the University of Padua found 1 in 10 women undergoing fertility treatment will suffer milder forms of an adverse reaction to the drugs called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), while 1 percent will be at risk for life-threatening blood disorders. Researchers also analyzed doctors' reports since the early 1990s and discovered 60 percent of fertility treatment accidents involved blood clots in the head and neck.

The UK Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists also wrote in their 2006 guidelines on hyperstimulation that noticeable reactions occur in 33% of IVF cycles, with an estimated 3-8% of patients showing moderate to severe reactions. Severe can mean blood clots, renal and liver dysfunction and acute respiratory distress leading to serious morbidity, while two international women – one in Dublin and another in London – are believed to have died from severe OHSS.

Angela Hickey told the hearing that she lost her daughter Jac¬queline Rushton, 32, who underwent the IVF treatment and experienced severe OHSS, which put her body into Adult Respiratory Distress, causing her death.

Dr. Beeson noted that currently no registries exist to track the health of women who undergo IVF treatment, despite the real possibility of long term risks of ovarian, uterine, vaginal and breast cancer associated with the drugs used to boost egg production.

"Egg harvesting is taking place in a research climate marked by conflicts of interest, the misleading use of language to describe research goals, and a commercial push that may lead to the exploitation of young women," she argued.

The Arizona Republic reports that fertility clinics or egg collection businesses may offer anywhere from $5, 000 to $50,000 dollars for women to donate their eggs, and often solicit coeds for the procedure, who are often in debt and unaware of the risks to their fertility.

Josephine Quintavalle – founder Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE), pointed out that many of these women may believe the myth that they have “millions of eggs to spare.” However, only an estimated 500 oocytes of the 14 million formed in utero are available at the beginning of a woman’s menstrual life.

“This concern is timely in light of renewed efforts in Congress to fund destructive embryonic stem cell research in the name of pursuing cures," said Deirdre McQuade [USCCB spokeswoman] who explained that damage caused by embryonic stem-cell research goes far beyond the embryos destroyed by “a great many women as egg factories, at great risk to their health and safety.”

[13March07, Peter J. Smith WASHINGTON, D.C., LifeSiteNews.com]

Study: Women Who Donate Eggs For Fertility Research Face Loss of Life and Limb
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2007/feb/07021902.html

Barely Studied Risks of Egg-Donation Come Under Scrutiny
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/aug/06081106.html ;

 

 

Study: Women Who Donate Eggs For Fertility Research Face Loss of Life and Limb
34 women suffered severe reactions to hormone-stimulating drugs for egg extraction
By Peter J. Smith
LONDON, February 19, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Powerful drugs given to women egg-donors to harvest their eggs can cause paralysis, limb amputation and death warns a new study by Italian experts. The warning comes from researchers at the University of Padua just days before the United Kingdom's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is expected to endorse a controversial new policy allowing doctors to pay healthy women for harvesting their eggs for research purposes.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the scientists at the University of Padua discovered in their study that 34 women suffered severe reactions to the hormone-stimulating drugs, which increase the number of eggs for extraction. Most of these women had previously enjoyed good health prior to the fertility treatment. An analysis of doctors' reports since the early 1990s revealed to the researchers that 60 per cent of the accidents involved blood clots in the head and neck.

The study, published in the journal Thrombosis and Thrombolysis, concludes that the occurrence of the number of side effects would rise as the number of assisted reproduction techniques increased. Among all women undergoing infertility treatment, one in 10 will suffer milder forms of an adverse reaction called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), while 1 percent will be at risk for life-threatening blood disorders.

The study complements a growing body of research raising concerns about the effect of the high doses of hormones in egg-retrieval drugs on the health and safety of women, especially the development of some kinds of cancer.

However, the HFEA is expected to approve Wednesday the recommendations of its influential Ethics and Law Committee, which has privately advocated the authority permit doctors and stem-cell researchers to pay women volunteers for harvesting their eggs. "The potential scientific gains outweigh the objections," one source closely involved in the decision told The Observer, a British newspaper.

The authority would permit women to donate for "altruistic reasons" and be paid £250 plus travel expenses. The eggs would then be used in human cloning techniques to conceive a human embryo, who would be allowed to grow for 14 days before being killed for his stem-cells.

Josephine Quintavalle, from Comment on Reproductive Ethics, accused the HFEA of "losing sight of their duty to the welfare of patients".

"This should be their first and only duty, not collecting eggs for research that has nothing to do with infertility," she told the Telegraph. "The risk of a young woman dying as a result of these experiments, is really not a chance that anyone should be taking."

Donna Dickenson, emeritus professor of medical ethics and humanities at the University of London and one of Britain's leading experts on the issue warned The Observer that the government's eggs-for-cash scheme could lure many poor women into undergoing such a painful, invasive, and possibly dangerous medical procedure.

"The HFEA could be unwittingly opening the door to barter or sale of eggs, including women in Britain as well as abroad, even though it is saying that women doing this would do so for purely altruistic reasons," said Dickenson.

"The sum of £250 would still be enough of an inducement for women from eastern Europe, for example, to come to Britain to sell their eggs. That's clearly turning eggs into an object of trade and that's disturbing. Once the principle of egg donation for research is established, it will become harder to prohibit paid egg donation."

Related coverage from LifeSiteNews.com:

UK Fertility Authority Proposes Allowing Egg Donation as Embryonic Stem Cell Source
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/feb/06021406.html

Researchers Begin to Clamor for Payment of Ova, Despite Unstudied Risks
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/aug/06081402.html

British Woman Died of Internal Bleeding After IVF Procedure
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/aug/06081006.html

Barely Studied Risks of Egg-Donation Come Under Scrutiny
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/aug/06081106.html

Feminist Revolutionary Warns of Exploitation of Women with Cloning Research
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/mar/05030303.html

 

 

Barely Studied Risks of Egg-Donation Come Under Scrutiny
By Hilary White
 August 11, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A report in the scientific journal, Nature, warns would-be parents that health problems with children conceived artificially in IVF labs could take years to emerge.
 
Pro-life advocates who have objected to embryonic research have pointed out that the number of ova needed for large-scale stem cell and cloning experiments place women – especially poor women – in danger of economic exploitation. Now Nature is exploring whether the heavy demand for ova in IVF and related industries are not also a threat to women’s health.
 
Nature reporter Helen Pearson writes that doctors first started asking about the possible dangers of egg-retreival drugs when a 39 year-old woman died of cancer years after donating ova to her infertile sister. Studies have indicated that the drugs used to stimulate ovarian follicles could be linked to the development of some kinds of cancer.
 
Pearson writes that doctors say systematic research needs to be undertaken to examine all aspects of ova donation and possible long-term consequences. Ethical matters, however, are taking a back seat to questions of availability as the stem cell and cloning experiments are increasingly appoved by national governments. While one large, long-term study is under way in the Netherlands, some doctors worry that any negative press will discourage donors.
 
The British Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA) will meet next month to discuss the problem. But the HFEA is unlikely to be willing to halt its embryo experimentation track. In February, the government regulatory agency – considered by many to be among the most permissive in the world – proposed allowing “altruistic” ova donation to fuel the embryonic stem cell and cloning experiments it has already approved.
 
Read the full report in Nature:
http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060807/full/442607a.html
 
Read related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Feminist Revolutionary Warns of Exploitation of Women with Cloning Research
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/mar/05030303.html
 
British Woman Died of Internal Bleeding After IVF Procedure
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/aug/06081006.html