November 19, 2006
Asian Egg Donor Shortage In United States

An article in the Washington Post reports claims by fertility clinics and couples looking for donor eggs that Asian egg donors in the United States are hard to find.

But as egg donation has surged over the past two decades, clinics and donor recruiting agencies say the supply of ethnic minority donors, especially Asians, has not kept pace with demand. For reasons probably involving complex cultural attitudes about fertility and basic marketing principles, Asian eggs are hard to find.

This strikes me as a temporary problem. Higher prices will bring forward more donors. Asian ethnics would be smart to advertise in college newspapers at elite colleges to get eggs from smarter students. The costs are higher. But the benefit of having smarter kids on average will pay itself back many times over.

Clinics that are offering only $6000 could always raise their offering prices. Surely some of their customers could afford to pay more. The money is a very small portion of the total costs for raising a kid.

Donors are usually in their fertile 20s. After passing medical and psychological tests, they inject themselves with hormone stimulants for about one month. They are then anesthetized while a physician removes the eggs with a needle. Most clinics in the Washington region pay donors about $6,000.

The Web site of the Washington Fertility Center asks for "urgently needed" Chinese, Ethiopian, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Middle Eastern, Filipino and Vietnamese donors. Recently, its online donor database featured 152 donor profiles. Among the donors were two of Middle Eastern descent and 10 Asians, of whom one was part Indian -- one of the rarest donor ethnicities, doctors say.

Some are afraid to tell their relatives and friends they can't start a pregnancy.

Because infertility is seen as failure in some cultures, and because adoption is uncommon among Asians and Muslims, some observers speculate that despairing infertile couples opt for egg donation without telling anyone -- which also prevents them from asking relatives or friends to be donors. That secrecy makes a donor of the same ethnicity even more crucial, doctors say.

To women of those wanted ethnicities who want to make money selling their eggs: Ask yourself how much money it would take to make it worth going through the time and effort and risks from ovary stimulation drugs such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. My advice: Demand what you think will make it worth the risks and trouble.. If you are provably very smart (e.g. very high IQ, high SAT scores, advanced scientific or medical degrees) then demand tens of thousands of dollars. If you offer to sell your eggs try to get top dollar.

The article reports on the practice of Indian Americans buying eggs in India. This allows selection of donors from the same caste and region.

When genetic testing becomes cheap and detailed in what it reveals I expect to see a large increase in the use of donor eggs. The advantages of donor eggs will become greater once eggs can be chosen to produce healthier, smarter, better looking, and better behaved kids.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 November 19 12:58 PM  Bioethics Reproduction

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