Forum: Consider donating unused frozen eggs to IVF patients

I applaud the Government's decision to allow women to undergo non-medical freezing of their eggs (Singapore to allow women, including singles, to freeze their eggs for non-medical reasons, March 28).

It must be noted that only a small fraction of women who freeze their eggs eventually use them.

An Australian study published last year estimated that, at best, only one in five women will use her frozen eggs.

It would be highly wasteful if unused frozen eggs were to be discarded after the women have achieved their desired number of children.

Instead, women could be encouraged to donate their unused frozen eggs to in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) patients who need them. They could receive some reimbursement from the recipients for the money spent on freezing their eggs.

The ethical problems of undue financial inducement and commercial egg trading do not apply here, because the women are just being refunded medical fees that they already spent. Nevertheless, appropriate safeguards should be put in place.

For instance, if the donor is married, she and her husband should be counselled and required to sign a consent form to acknowledge that they are aware of the risk of accidental incest between their own children and any unknown donor-conceived offspring.

Couples should also think carefully whether to donate these eggs if the woman is older, as this would represent the last chance for them to have more children.

Recipients who would be reimbursing the donor should also be made aware that the IVF success rates with frozen eggs are lower than with fresh eggs.

To boost chances for recipients, donation could be restricted to women who had frozen their eggs before they were 30.

Doctors and fertility clinics should be banned from soliciting their patients and encouraging them to donate their frozen eggs. There is a conflict of interest in doing so, as they would be earning additional medical fees by performing the egg donation procedure on others.

Fertility clinics also should not control the distribution and allocation of donated frozen eggs to IVF patients, as this might lead to profiteering. Instead, this prerogative should be exercised by a government-controlled centralised donor registry.

Alexis Heng Boon Chin (Dr)

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