UK clinic granted permission to buy 'Russian eggs'
29 November 2010
By Nishat Hyder
Appeared in BioNews 586
A UK fertility clinic, the Centre for Reproductive and Genetic Health (CRGH), has received permission to import eggs from Russia, in order to meet the demand for donated eggs. Using the Russian eggs, the CRGH, which already imports sperm from Denmark, will create an egg bank for women looking to undergo fertility treatment.
To transport the eggs, Altra Vita, the Moscow based clinic from which the eggs are imported, makes use of a freezing method called vitrification, where all water is removed from the egg before it is frozen in liquid nitrogen. The clinic's website contains a catalogue of egg donors, including information such as height, weight, hair and eye colour, education, age and ethnic background.
The process is overseen by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which required assurance that the Russian donors were not paid excessively. The payment of egg donors is unlawful in the UK but donors may receive some compensation for expenses. The donors also had to agree to the possibility of their details being disclosed to their genetic children in the future, the Sunday Times reports. Children in the UK born from donated gametes have the right to trace their biological parents.
There has been a shortage of donor eggs available for fertility treatment in recent years in the UK, resulting in long waiting lists and may account for why many couples decide to go abroad to receive treatment. The situation is complex, however the lack of publicity about egg donation and comparatively poor compensation paid to donors are regularly cited as possible reasons behind the shortage of donated eggs in the UK. At present, compensation is limited to a maximum of £250 per cycle of egg donation, compared to sums in excess of £6,000 paid to donors in the United States.
The Sunday Times reports the CRGH had originally decided to import eggs from America, but withdrew these plans as donor compensation was deemed excessive. So far around ten British women have undergone fertility treatment at the CRGH using eggs donated by Russian women, the newspaper said.