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Debate rages over fertility clinic’s offer of free eggs

By Maria Cheng
Associated Press / March 18, 2010

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LONDON — An American infertility clinic seeking business in Britain has prompted fierce criticism by offering free eggs from a US woman to one participant in a promotional seminar last evening in London.

The event has sparked a debate in Britain about the ethics of an event that many said violated the spirit, if not the letter, of a European Union law forbidding fertile women from being paid for their eggs.

Eggs donors in the United Kingdom cannot be compensated for more than $384 per month for travel and time off work.

The rule limits the number of donors and makes it very difficult for infertile women to obtain eggs in the UK and much of Europe. It is not illegal for Europeans to pay for eggs overseas and for years infertile European women seeking eggs have traveled to America or other countries.

As part of a marketing push, the Virginia-based Genetics and IVF Institute held a free seminar for British couples last night and said one randomly chosen participant would win donor eggs.

To donate, a woman must undergo a monthlong treatment that involves injecting hormones to stimulate the ovaries and then undergoing a procedure to retrieve several eggs.

The clinic’s prize is worth more than $10,000 — a $6,000 fee for the donor and $4,000 in medical costs associated with the egg retrieval.

Because the winner of yesterday’s lottery would travel to the United States to get eggs from a US donor, the company’s paying for them does not break any British laws. But British fertility specialists slammed the event as a publicity stunt.

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