Friday, August 02, 2013

Pay-for-Eggs Legislation: A Comment on Risk

The author of the Forbes piece cited in the eggs legislation item today has responded to a comment filed by two persons opposed to the measure that would remove the ban in California on paying women for their eggs for scientific research.

Here is the text filed by Jon Entine, executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project.
“Diane and Nancy, I'm shocked that you are either unaware or do not acknowledge that there are studies of oocyte retrieval surgeries that show very persuasively that the potential harm from this procedure is manageable. While you refer to 'stories' of women being harmed--that's called anecdotal evidence and is the antithesis of science--you ignore the established research in this area, which makes it clear that you are reacting hysterically rather than responding to empirical evidence. I would suggest that you read the National Academies Press workshop report: Assessing the Medical Risks of Human Oocyte Donation for Stem Cell Research ( It cites numerous studies, including a German study that examined the outcome of approximately 380,000 oocyte retrieval surgeries during 2000-2004. For the procedures for which there was information, the rate of complications was very low: only 0.002 percent—2 in every 100,000—had complications that required surgery to correct.
“Studies have also examined the potential risks of retrieval for a woman's future fertility.
“According to one large study, the rate of infection after oocyte retrieval was about 1 in every 200 IVF cycles, and surgery is needed to treat pelvic abscesses in less than 1 in 1,000 IVF cycles. 
“About five hundred egg donations take place in Canada each year, according to the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society.The CFAS told me that, between 2001 and 2010, only two donors in Canada, out of a total of 4,177 donations, suffered from “severe” OHSS, which usually involves hospitalization. Fourteen others had “moderate” OHSS. These numbers are collected in a database called the Canadian Assisted Reproductive Technologies Registry.
“So sure, you can find your 'stories' but they do not represent a scientific review of the available data--you are trying to legislate based on fear. That's not science; that's the dark ages, and it's exactly the tactics used by anti-abortionists (and indeed by organizations like the Center for Genetics and Society which opposes such beneficial advances as mitochondrial replacement surgery).
“Furthermore, because women have a set of two ovaries and two fallopian tubes, they can remain fertile even if one set is damaged, and there is no evidence that both might be threatened simultaneously by the side effects of retrieval surgery. 
“Today doctors have had two decades of experience with the use of hormone treatments to maximize the number of eggs that can be harvested from a woman, and they have become quite proficient in the production of oocytes. During that time they have also worked to improve the safety of the procedure and decrease the potential risks. Despite these improvements some risk will remain, because hormones have a powerful effect on the body—they could not increase egg production so dramatically if this were not true—and anything with a powerful effect on the body has the potential for harmful side effects as well. 
“Egg donations are done for a reason. There are risks and benefits. For you to exaggerate the risks based on 'stories' and ignore the evidence is unconscionable. It's exactly what anti-abortion groups do and what opponents of genetically modified foods do--you promote fear around manageable (or in the case of GMOs, negligible) risk. 
“Your call for 'further studies' is the age old technique of reactionaries trying to control other people and impose their values on other people. You know darned well, because of your fundamental ideological opposition to this procedure, no study results could ever meet your standard of acceptability. 
“You are trying to control other women's bodies, claiming you have superior knowledge and wisdom--those are pro-life talking points. Your views, and that of the organizations that you represent, are illiberal.”
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