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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Ban on sale of human eggs a good idea

    Michael Mobleyguest columnist
    Michael Mobley
    guest columnist

    A cash-laden Saudi Arabian broker goes to the impoverished districts of India to find those willing to sell their kidneys for a few thousand dollars. The cash offering is so high he has no trouble finding those willing to risk their health for the money.

    Is this right? In nearly every developed country in the world it is illegal. Soliciting the sale of human organs is recognized as being unethical and immoral.

    Why? Because such a practice clearly exploits the poor, as money is used to induce someone to do something that poses potential short-term or long-term hazards to his or her health. This commodifies human flesh, and relegates the poor to the status of organ producers. This is not simply a public health issue; it is an ethical issue. Lawmakers in most countries have recognized the need to stop such modern forms of human slavery.

    Today, across America’s college campuses, young women are being enticed by ads to sell their eggs. Claimed “”compensation”” runs from $2,500 to $5,000, but some sales have gone for as much as $25,000. Egg donation is preceded by a series of hormone injections and is accomplished by a surgical procedure. It clearly has risks, and some women have died from the procedure.

    Which women are most likely to sell their eggs? Those with the greatest need for the money. Thus, the sale of human eggs involves the same ethical and moral issues as the sale of a kidney or bone marrow. If those are illegal, shouldn’t we consider banning the sale of human eggs?

    The National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 prohibits payments to organ donors. Lawmakers and ethicists emphasize that these safeguards are not intended to prohibit organ transplants, which are recognized to be valuable medical procedures.

    Similarly, a prohibition on the sale of eggs is not intended to prevent their use by in vitro fertilization clinics. Women concerned for the health of others could donate, and a modest compensation for any loss would seem reasonable. A prohibition on egg sales would prevent brokers from exploiting young women.

    Some individuals, looking at potential legislation to protect women, have cried foul. They claim, “”A woman has the right to do with her body what she wants to.”” Or, “”If we ban the sale of eggs, shouldn’t we ban the sale of sperm – we can’t be sexist.”” The truest measure of a just government is whether it protects the most vulnerable in society. We cannot succumb to slogans when we recognize that financially strapped young women will be exploited by the lure of “”easy”” cash. There are indeed ethical issues with the sale of sperm. If men were exposed to a significant health risk in the donation of sperm, then legislation could be warranted. To date, we know of no significant health risk.

    Michael Mobley is the associate director of Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute. He can be reached at

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