A groundbreaking deal will allow Australians undergoing IVF to import eggs from young American women at a cost of $19,000.
Julia Medew, The Age, 10 March 2013
The imports, which will significantly boost the number of eggs available to Australians, are being facilitated by Monash IVF after it became the first clinic in Australia to strike a deal with the US-based World Egg Bank – the largest commercial frozen egg bank in the world.
The arrangement is a boon for the clinic and women who suffer ovarian failure or are reaching the end of their reproductive years, because there is a shortage of egg donors in Australia.
Some people who cannot find their own donors among family and friends advertise for donors or travel overseas to buy eggs from women because IVF clinics have struggled to find women willing to donate to others in need.
Some Australians have reportedly paid up to $100,000 for eggs overseas and have resorted to anonymous donations in countries such as South Africa, Thailand, Spain and Greece, raising concerns about who the donors were and how the donations were carried out.
While many fertility clinics have arrangements with international sperm banks, Monash IVF is believed to be the first in Australia to negotiate such an agreement for eggs that meets local laws about how such donations can occur.
Dr Adrianne Pope, of Monash IVF Queensland who managed the deal, said the egg bank became available in Queensland in January and would soon be accessible to Victorians. She said about 15 Queenslanders were in the process of using the bank.
In Victoria, people wanting to import eggs through Monash IVF must first seek approval through the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority. ”This is very exciting … We’ve been working on this now for more than 18 months,” Dr Pope said. The World Egg Bank is recruiting American women aged 21 to 29 to donate their eggs to Australians in a fashion that meets local laws.
This means donors cannot be paid for their eggs but can be compensated between $3500 and $5000 for their costs and the estimated 20 hours it takes over 3-5 months to donate.
Donors must supply identifying information to donor-conceived children who may want to access information or contact their donor at the age of 18.
Dr Pope said Australians wanting to access donor eggs from the US would have to pay about $19,000 to cover the costs of the donation and shipping before paying the usual costs associated with IVF cycles, which costs about $3500 after Medicare rebates.
Donors will supply seven frozen eggs to a recipient and their eggs will take about three to four months to reach Australia. Donors can only donate six times and Australian laws mean their eggs cannot not be used to create more than 10 families.
Dr Pope said Monash IVF had been careful to ensure the rights of donor-conceived children were paramount in the arrangement. She said while the egg bank would have access to social security numbers to keep track of donors in future, there was never a guarantee of connection later in life.
Deputy Director of the Monash University Centre for Human Bioethics Justin Oakley said although the World Egg Bank appeared to have good processes in place, people should bear in mind it is a commercial business local authorities cannot easily monitor.
He said Australians should consider the possibility of law changes in the US that could prevent donor-conceived children contacting their donors later in life.