Forum: Encourage more local women to donate eggs

A photo illustration of a baby's foot. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Straits Times' report (S'poreans head to Malaysia, elsewhere to find egg donors, Oct 29) would suggest that most Singaporean women requiring donated eggs travel overseas for the procedure due to their persistent shortage in Singapore.

It is anticipated that the demand for donor eggs will increase as the Government lifts the age limit on women undergoing in-vitro fertilisation treatment.

To overcome this shortage, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has permitted the import of frozen eggs from a European egg bank, which surprisingly has a wide choice of Asian and Chinese donors.

Increasing demand worldwide has led to many egg banks and donor agencies in the West stepping up their recruitment of Asian donors through higher monetary compensation.

Nevertheless, despite advances in egg vitrification technology, success rates with frozen eggs are still significantly lower than that with fresh eggs, as reported in most medical publications.

Hence, the pertinent challenge faced by MOH is how to boost the local supply of donated eggs.

One obvious solution is to allow egg donors to receive adequate monetary compensation for their efforts as egg donation is a tedious and painful procedure that involves a few weeks of regular hormone injections and blood tests, followed by outpatient surgery.

After all, if the frozen eggs of paid donors can be imported into Singapore, why shouldn't local donors be paid?

Permitting market-competitive remuneration for egg donors may also attract many foreign women of suitable ethnicity to travel to Singapore to donate their eggs, which may be necessitated by the increasingly cosmopolitan and diverse ethnic make-up of the country.

Another solution to boost the local supply of donated eggs is to allay prospective donors' fear of accidental incest, through appropriate safeguards such as the setting up of a centralised donor registry, and the sharing of non-identifying information, such as number of children born per donor, their sex and year of birth.

Yet another solution may come from the Government permitting social egg freezing, which would likely lead to an accumulated surplus of unused frozen eggs that can be donated.

Because most women in their 20s readily produce many surplus eggs upon hormonal stimulation, they should be allowed to receive private subsidies for elective egg freezing, in return for donation of some of their fresh eggs to infertile patients.

Alexis Heng Boon Chin (Dr)

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2019, with the headline Forum: Encourage more local women to donate eggs. Subscribe