Thursday, 5 March 2009


“With what price we pay for the glory of motherhood…” - Isadora Duncan

“OVUM DONORS: Healthy women between 18 and 35 years are required for ovum donations in our fertility clinic. The procedure is perfectly safe and you will have the satisfaction of helping a childless family experience the joy of parenthood. You will be rewarded for your efforts.”

On a Greek TV program on Satellite TV there was a story about ovum donors in Greece. As well as the “official” fertility clinics associated with the major state-administered hospitals, there is also a whole industry of small, private fertility clinics that supply infertile women with “donated” ova, at the price of about €6,000 each. The donated ova are bought from the “donors” for €600. This industry is illegal and both the ovum “seller” and the “purchaser” of the ova can be prosecuted by the legal system. However, this is not the case and the industry is burgeoning as fertility decreases and many more women find themselves in the position of needing IVF procedures in order to conceive.

On the other hand, many a desperate young woman who needs money is forced to resort to “donating” her ova and thus go through many such procedures in a relatively short period of time. One woman was relating how she had “donated” seven times recently, as she had financial difficulties and she was unemployed. Another related how she had lied about her age (she was over 40) in order to sell her ova. A third woman said that she did it because she felt sorry for the childless couple, but unless she were “paid for her trouble” she would not have donated her ova.

This is a vexed question. The joys of parenthood, the wonder of pregnancy and birth, motherhood and the creation of a family are surely the right of any woman. In the past, more often than not there was the problem of multiple births and many women having too many babies (that often cost the woman her life). Nowadays we are finding that fertility is decreasing in both men and women and the average couple can have rather a hard time in conceiving. Many women, who have deferred becoming pregnant until their 30s are finding that they are infertile and their only hope is IVF. This is coupled with the problem of ageing societies and a decreased birth rate in most Western countries. We are populations in decline, unlike the developing countries where the population is increasing.

Adopting used to be a solution in the past and although this potentially had many problems, it was a strategy that made many a happy family. The raising of a child and the creation of a happy home environment has nothing to do with the genetic make-up of the child or its genetic relationships with the people it calls mother and father. However, adopting is much harder nowadays than it was in the past. The reasons are another big topic for discussion, but let’s say that the state bureaucracy can sometimes hinder more than it can help in its efforts to make our society better.

We are in a position nowadays where science and technology performs miracles. Life is created in a test tube and the barren are made fertile. A woman can carry her own baby, whether it is her husband’s or not. She can carry her husband’s baby, the ovum having come from another woman. The baby can be completely different genetically, created with donated ova and donated sperm. A surrogate mother can carry the couple’s baby for them. Two women can become a couple and have a baby with donated sperm. We are reaching a stage where soon, Huxley’s science fiction “Brave New World” will become a reality.

The question remains. Do we pay for this ovum donation? Is it an ethical thing for someone to sell bits of their body? People peddle their kidneys to rich tourists in need of a transplant in some countries. This “transplantation tourism” has become a massive problem. What is next? Legalising execution of criminals and auctioning off their vital organs to the highest bidder? A black market trading of organs following abduction and murder? Is everything for sale nowadays? Has money become such a vital force in our culture that people are prepared to anything for it?

And aptly the word of the day:

In vitro fertilisation (noun)
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a process by which egg cells are fertilized by sperm outside of the womb, in vitro. IVF is a major treatment in infertility when other methods of assisted reproductive technology have failed. The process involves hormonally controlling the ovulatory process, removing ova (eggs) from the woman's ovaries and letting sperm fertilise them in a fluid medium. The fertilized egg (zygote) is then transferred to the patient's uterus with the intent to establish a successful pregnancy. The first test tube baby, Louise Brown, was born in 1978.
ORIGIN: Latin, literally ‘in glass.’ + late Middle English: via French from Latin fertilis, from ferre ‘to bear.’

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