The Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has announced an investigation into several UK IVF clinics after damning allegations that women are being pressuring into donating eggs in exchange for free IVF treatment. Journalists from the Daily Mail claim that several clinics are targeting poorer women who are desperate for treatment, in some cases attempting to convince them that donating eggs is like “giving blood”.
Undercover reporters from the Mail say they were encouraged to donate eggs at IVF clinics in London, Hertfordshire and County Durham. In one case, a doctor said a reporter could trade her healthy eggs for cash and use the money to fund her own IVF treatment. In other instances reporters were told by nurses that an egg “isn’t a baby” and that donating gametes was “just like giving blood”.
The HFEA are now threatening the clinics with major regulatory action. “We have already contacted the clinics involved and our inspectors will investigate each allegation”, Sally Cheshire, chair of the HFEA, told the reporters. “If we find poor practice in a clinic, we will take regulatory action.” Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the investigation had his full support.
One of the facilities, the London Women’s Clinic North East, rejected the Mail’s accusations. It said that it complied with HFEA guidelines, that the reported conversations between patients and doctors “did not represent the reality of the spirit of the guidance available to patients”, and that patients had to have two independent counselling sessions before donating.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, IVF pioneer Lord Robert Winston said that the women in question were “under duress” and that they “cannot appreciate the consequences of what they’re agreeing to”. “These patients are vulnerable and anxious and likely to be worried about money”, he said.
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