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The Parents Via Egg Donation Organization: October 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Attempting to Dispel the Myths about Egg Donation

So I am reading blogs and Sharon LaMothe from Infertility Answers points me over to Katherine Benardo’s site and says “You know Marna, you probably want to see this.” I venture over and read again what’s been in the news over the past couple of weeks regarding the increase in egg donation. And while I agree there has been an upswing in egg donation, and yes I am sure it’s due to our economy in the United States – I think there’s a whole lot that’s still misunderstood about egg donation as a whole.

I think what’s bothersome to me is that there seems to be this world view that the women who donate their eggs to women like me (so we can achieve our dream of become mothers) is that these women come from poor backgrounds, aren’t educated, or perhaps even I might say impoverished selling parts of themselves to make money. That is just so off the mark it’s not even funny.

What the general public doesn’t know or understand I think that there are young women out there who donate their eggs for altruistic reasons. They really do want to help another couple become parents. The other part of this of course is the money part.

I won’t deny the fact that $5000.00 sweetens the pot for those who embark upon egg donation. However, I must say this isn’t like sperm donation where men are compensated $500+ do something they do every day that feels good. Egg donation is a surgical procedure that’s invasive, and a recipient parent is compensation the egg donor for her time and inconvenience. What most people don’t know is that egg donors aren’t paid for their eggs, or how many eggs are retrieved. Regardless of the number, at retrieval an egg donor receives compensation. The other part to this is that according to ASRM (Short for American Society of Reproductive Medicine) is that they recommend egg donors be compensated $5000.00 and for anything about $5000.00 the reason be documented with a cap being $10,000.00. Anything above $10k is not ethical regardless of how you pad it. When I see ads for egg donor compensation 20k I shake my head. And when agencies like this are questioned about it they say things like:

“Oh well, her fee is only for 10k, however, we are also compensating her for lost wages from her job.”
“We are compensating her for travel expenses.”
“We are compensating her for miscellaneous expenses.”

That’s how these agencies get around the 10k cap, and its highway robbery as well as being dishonest. What do these women do that their time is worth an additional 10k a month????
Please someone enlighten me?

I don’t think the general public understands that not everyone who applies to donate their eggs makes it. About ten percent of all applicants are accepted into egg donor programs across the United States. This isn’t just a walk in the park – aside from fitting the age limits of 19-32, these egg donors have to be in top notch physical health, which means having blood tests to examine their own reproductive health. They can’t be smokers, and they need to be free of infectious diseases (sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, etc...). Many clinics require their donors to undergo genetic testing as well. And some of these donors discover during the testing process they are carriers for genetic diseases. What a way to find out. Aside from all of this, then it’s another round of psychological testing, more medical testing (ultrasounds, blood work etc..) and then after all of that these egg donors go through a highly regimented drug protocol that required them to take several different kinds of medications, some of which are injected. Yet more office visits, and finally their egg retrieval. Then and only then are they paid for their time. Not any easy way to make $5000.00 in my book.

Many wonder how an egg donor selected. I can tell you the process is complicated and often overwhelming. Why is it so complicated you ask? It’s not just an act of accepting eggs from one person and putting them into another. There is a psychological component that goes with this. The recipient mother has received a diagnosis from her doctor that for whatever reason her own eggs and genetic material aren’t adequate to create life. She then comes face to face with the facts that if she ever wants to become pregnant, carry a pregnancy, and become a mother then she is going to have to resort to the use of donor eggs. Once all of that is worked through then there is the actual job of selecting the right egg donor for your family. And really how is that accomplished?

Egg donors are almost always selected by a recipient unless the recipient specifically asks the fertility center to select for them based on their criteria. Recipients come in all shapes and sizes. From various backgrounds, however, in my experience I have found over the years that college educated Caucasian, upper middle class, individuals lead the way with Asian-American following close behind in regards to looking for egg donors that might match their criteria. That criterion is often stringent for a lot of recipient couples. Many recipients want a donor who has high SAT or ACT scores, is pretty, artistic, athletic, or a college graduate.

I can’t say I have ever heard a recipient couple say they want a mediocre egg donor, who’s not attractive, and did poorly in school.

And so yes, there are more egg donors donating, but it’s not a quick 5k or even 10k. It’s hard work, and we the recipient parents are ever so grateful to our egg donors, without them we wouldn’t have the wonderful, amazing, and incredible children we have today.

How I wish ABC, NBC, or Oprah would invite me to sit down with them and have a real dialogue about egg donation, infertility, and what it’s like to be a parent via this process. I think it would take the stigma out of something of something that’s so incredibly beautiful.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008



A class action lawsuit was filed on October 24, 2008, by Olivia Pratten, the representative plaintiff, on behalf of all people in the province of BC conceived via anonymous sperm, egg and embryo donation or what is called “gamete donation”.

It is believed to be the first time a case of this sort has been brought forward by donor offspring in Canada.

The lawsuit is against the Attorney General of British Columbia and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia.

Today the British Columbia Supreme Court issued an injunction which orders all persons who have records of gamete donation not to destroy such records or redact them or transfer them out of the Province pending a further hearing in the Supreme Court, at which time Ms. Pratten on behalf of the class will seek a more permanent injunction to be in force until the trial of this lawsuit is heard and decided. For further details of this injunction the public is urged to refer to www.arvayfinlay.com.

The lawsuit claims that the present law discriminates against persons who were conceived as a result of gamete donation. By contrast, adopted children have, by law, certain legal rights and opportunities to know about their biological parents that children conceived by way of gamete donation simply do not enjoy. The lawsuit is based on the guarantees of equality and security of the person in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The lawsuit seeks the immediate and ultimately the permanent protection and preservation of all files related to the practice of gamete donation in the province of British Columbia. Currently all information from health to identifying information about the gamete donor, can be destroyed at whim by the practicing physician after six years. One woman included in the suit already had her files destroyed.

“Farmers have kept better records on the artificial insemination of cattle than the physicians in BC have kept on people like myself,” said Pratten, now 26 years old.

In 2001, she was told that her biological father was healthy and that a “verbal medical check had been done.” The physician, Dr. Korn, gave the minimal information of height, weight and hair color on a piece of hotel stationery.

“The issue of protecting the files and having my right to access their full and complete information is one of principle to me. I’m tired of having to explain or defend my desire and my right to know this information,” said Pratten.

Olivia, along with others in the suit, have attempted to gain information and access of vital health information from various physicians in BC who practiced donor insemination. No one has managed to obtain information and many have been told that the files are destroyed or will be destroyed if further action was taken.

“It is completely unacceptable, if not outrageous that the medical establishment threatens to destroy medical files,” said Pratten.

In 2004, she was told by the Deputy Registrar of Ethics at the College that her health files could be “shredded and incinerated” after six years from the last medical contact with the patient. In this case, the patient was not Olivia, but her mother Shirley, who received the insemination's.
Ms. Pratten expects a positive response from at least some of the men who were sperm donors at Dr. Korn’s clinic. One such donor is Dwight Jones at Dr. Korn’s clinic during the 1970s and 1980s who said, “It’s our obligation to the offspring, and the perception that most donors are seeking anonymity is not correct and certainly no reason to withhold their content decades later.”

“Every Canadian adult has the right to truthful information about his or her origins. We all need to know who we are and where we come from. It does not matter whether we are adopted or conceived by gamete donation; we all have the right to this information. The Adoption Council of Canada supports the right of all adults conceived by gamete donation to truthful information about their origins,” said Wendy Rowney, vice president of the Adoption Council of Canada.
“Our clients seek information that might be said to be of the most basic and fundamental to the human condition. Knowing about one’s biological origin and thus their biological parent’s medical history, may be vital to our client’s present and future health. Nor is it any longer beyond the realm of the probable that this information may be needed to ensure that they do not inadvertently marry one of their siblings. But perhaps, most important, is that knowing about one’s ancestry, one’s very roots, is central to a person’s self identity,” says Joseph Arvay, who with Sean Hern, is counsel for Ms. Pratten and the class once the action is certified as a class proceeding.

On October 28, 2008, Chief Justice Donald Brenner of the British Columbia Supreme Court issued an injunction directed to all persons in BC, whether medical personnel or otherwise, preventing the destruction or transfer of any records that have been created or maintained by persons who administered artificial insemination.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Decision To Use Donor Eggs: Differences Between Men and Women

By Dr. Andrea Braverman

Each partner must examine his or her feelings about the role of genetics in parenting as well as how they choose to form their family. Among those who choose parenting, many will choose to adopt at this stage, whereas others will choose donor oocytes (eggs and/or sperm).

Separately and together, a couple must mourn the loss of the woman's genetic contribution. This mourning process may take the form of an immediate grief reaction, anger about the limitations of medical treatment, or a prolonged sadness. A wide variety of reactions have been observed, just like those observed in people adjusting to death or illness.

Women may feel ambivalent about using donor eggs. On one hand, the woman may feel excited to have an opportunity to become a mother and to experience pregnancy and birth. On the other hand, she may feel sad about the lack of a genetic tie. Some women remark that they feel the loss of not being able to look for her own or her parent's physical characteristics in the child.

"My husband has it all," remarked one egg recipient. She went on to explain that she felt that her husband had to give up nothing since the child would still be genetically his. These types of feelings often exist side-by-side with feelings of happiness that the child will be related genetically to one parent. Most men do not feel that they "have it all." Men experience the loss of the dream child that they planned with their partners. Both men and women need to explore that mutual loss.

Conflicting feelings are not to be avoided. They need to be recognized as part of the fabric of making difficult decisions. The decision to use donor egg is not a first choice, and very few individuals ever think that they will need it. Working through the conflicted feelings is part of the reconciliation process everyone goes through when life presents a blow. The loss of one's fertility is a blow, however, it is not something from which one cannot recover. To borrow a line from adoption circles, "Egg donation may not be a first choice, but it doesn't make it second best."

The process of women examining their feelings about parenting and genetic ties is further complicated by the impact of receiving the powerful diagnosis of infertility. Whatever the basic diagnosis is for the woman, complicated feelings about her self-esteem, body image, or femininity often arise. The woman may find herself re-examining a career choice of the family dynamics of her childhood when deciding to use donor eggs or to disclose their use to the child. Her partner may go through a similar process as well.

The choice to use donor eggs (whether known or anonymous) also highlights the couple's decision about whether or not to tell the child about his or her donor origins. This important question must be considered at the same time the couple is dealing with recognizing the loss of the biological child they planned to have together.

The Isolation Factor
Choosing egg donation can launch a radical departure from one's usual emotional coping style. Individuals experiencing infertility who had previously been open about their situation may choose to keep this decision private, based on a desire to protect the child's privacy, a wish to maximize the option of whether to disclose to the child or not, and/or concern about negative family or community reaction.

Another isolating factor is that most individuals don't have a peer group for support that is made up of people who have used egg donation. Unlike general infertility, where others may have had some personal experience or awareness of it, egg donation is much rarer.

Choosing to build a family by using egg donation needs careful consideration as well as time to explore the many issues and feelings involved in this decision. Egg donation can be a wonderful option for many families. Counseling from both medical and mental health professionals can be a very helpful part of the decision making process. In addition, being a wise consumer and investigating egg donation programs thoroughly are critical.

Andrea Braverman, PhD, is Director of Psychological Services at Pennsylvania Reproductive Associates in Philadelphia

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Really – What does the “C” in Customer Service Stand For?

“Can’t be bothered”?

Get my drift here? See where I’m going with this?

Now I realize that this post is going to most likely anger some of you in the service industry. And so I am going to apologize ahead of time if I step on a few toes, but really this post has been a long time coming.

This article is not about most fertility clinics or egg donation agencies, it's about some. But the issue is that some of these agencies and fertility clinics who are not providing appropriate or even good customer service are making things tough for the entire industry. (Marna Gatlin, PVED)
From the moment I step into your clinic I am your patient, client, or customer. My money that I am paying for service at your clinic, agency, or firm is going to pay for your salaries, mortgage, car payment, vacation, your child’s braces, your alimony, child support, your child’s private school or college tuition, or other living expenses.

My responsibility to you is to be on time for my appointments, follow your advice, ask questions if I don’t understand the information given, make requests that are reasonable, be mindful and respectful of your time, be honest with you regarding questions you ask regarding my health , bring my insurance information each time I have an appointment if applicable, and pay my bill on time.

I have had to give up any control I have ever had regarding my body. It doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. All I want to do is have a baby for God’s sakes. It shouldn’t be that hard. I turn to you, to the experts because you have come recommended to me, and I am assured you will take the very best care, and help me through this difficult time in my life.

But that’s not how it always plays out. For some patients, infertility treatment of any kind becomes a nightmare, and not because of the treatment itself, but because of their experience with their clinic or agency.

I am tired of being treated rudely but your staff because they are having a bad day. We all have bad days. I am also tired of being ignored, spoken to in a condescending tone, or treated like a child. I am not a child. I am an infertile woman for God’s sakes, who has way more education than some of you combined!

I realize that we define Customer Service as any contact, whether active or passive, between a customer and a company, that causes a negative or positive perception by a customer.

However, one would think that clinics and agencies especially would put their best foot forward when dealing with patients and clients. Don’t they know we are their bread and butter, and that word of mouth is one of the biggest advertising tool out there?

Some of the stuff I have heard over the past six months has been utterly amazing:

“I didn’t call you back because I felt there was nothing to worry about.”

“We are busy here Mrs. Smith, we can’t call everyone back who calls us you know.”

(Yeah, you know what? I am busy too, and I have waited a week for you to call me back about your clinic, so guess what, I’ll take my 25k to another clinic who actually returns my telephone calls.)

“We don’t do injection teaching here at this clinic, we figure everyone is pretty Internet savvy, and you can learn how to inject yourself on the Internet.”

(Can we say “potential lawsuit?”)

"The time my RE oh-so-sensitively told me, after informing me that my last IVF with my own eggs was again canceled due to poor response, "I think you are done with IVF."

(Oh really? How nice of you to make that decision for me, at a time when I'm clearly devastated. I switched RE's)

"When the report came back from the psychologist regarding the first donor we chose, there was mention of her needing to return to college on a particular date. I questioned whether or not we had sufficient time to go through this process and our egg donation agency insisted we did. When we signed up, we were told that a clinic rep accompanied every donor to the first doctor’s visit. The first donor we chose (in the first week, I might add) went to the first doctor’s appointment at the Infertility Clinic alone and was supposedly never heard from again. According to my doctor, she had no clue about how the process works and told him that she needed to return to college on a certain date. She was shocked to find out that he would be dictating the schedule and not her. The clinic offered no apology and we were told “this never happens”. Well obviously it did!?!? And obviously the psychologist and I saw it coming?!? They wanted to charge us for a rematch. My lawyer got involved and they ended up not charging us."

"On my second failed procedure with my first RE, she called to tell me the bad news. I asked her a few questions and during the discussion she told me that "you were lucky to have had your son" in a condescending tone. It literally took my breath away and my heart felt as though it fell to the floor. We had no trouble conceiving my son and didn't get any fertility help until having three consecutive miscarriages after having him, so it's not as though we perceived having him as medically lucky. Although their may be some technical truth to what she said, I see no value in telling it to me. I believe it was mean spirited and we switched RE's. By the way, this particular RE had horrible SART statistics. If only I knew then what I know now, I would have seen a much better RE initially."

"They began sending us profiles that did not meet our single-most important criteria which was blue eyes. We were not asking for a lot of criteria, just similar coloring to me and most importantly blue eyes. After a dozen or so profiles of brown and hazel eyed candidates (who, by the way, had no other resemblance to me either) I called the clinic and the representative actually asked me “Isn’t hazel good enough?” Meanwhile, she interrupted our conversation to take a phone call from her daughter. When she returned, I asked if she can see the resemblance to herself when she looks in her daughter’s eyes. After she told me she could, I explained that the possibility (just the possibility) that I might have a chance to have a blue eyed child was one way that I too might be able to have that same feeling when I look into my child’s eyes.

She promptly sent me blue-eyed candidates."

(I should hope to shout she sent this mom blue-eyed candidates, if she wanted hazel eyes she would have requested an egg donor with hazel eyes. Isn't hazel good enough - oh please, this is not like this mom is ordering a damn car, her feelings matter for goodness sakes.)

"With my first RE ( I switched REs later), pursuing conventional IVF with my own eggs, on my second protocol, I went in for monitoring and did not have much follicular recruitment. The US tech asked if I wished to speak with the RE. I did. She put me in a little waiting room, and I waited for over TWO hours with no one ever coming in to check on me. When the RE finally appeared, it wasn't what he said, it was all his body language. He was clearly irritated that I wished to speak with him, and he clearly didn't find it within his job to take time to speak with me. This same RE later spoke with DH on the phone about the dismal results and told us the clinic would be terminating our shared risk agreement due to "something unforeseen wrong with my eggs that no longer made me a good candidate" and when asked what else we could do, told us "adoption". This was in a large clinic where they have a DE program. ????????. Granted, it wasn't me who spoke with him on the telephone, so I am not sure EXACTLY what was said, but there is no love lost with this MD, who is a sixty something year old, and the clinical director of the large practice. So at that point, I am devastated, and wondering if I am in danger of dying from "something unforeseen wrong with my eggs"...at age 33... you know, a little touch of compassion for the folks who shell out the big bucks so you can earn a living might be nice...gee, I am getting angry just reliving this..."

"The second donor we chose never showed up for the first doctor’s appointment at the Infertility Clinic and was supposedly never heard from again (now, I’m suspicious, considering this “never happens”). According to our egg donation agency, a representative was meeting her at the clinic, although I never thought to contact my doctor to confirm (no surprise that I had my suspicions about this too) The clinic offered no apology or explanation. We then decided to explore other clinics/options and they charged us $900 to leave the clinic for “services rendered”. What service?!?

All’s well that ends well as I am now almost 31 weeks along however we (the DE recipient community) shouldn’t be subjected to these shenanigans to begin with. Our egg donation agency  set us back a year time-wise in this process. Plus, we ended up losing about $3,000 as a result due to the $900 charge to leave the clinic and additional money set aside in my flexible spending account that went unclaimed. Let’s not even mention the emotional and psychological affect it had on myself, my husband and our marriage while we recovered from the financial setback and reeled from the thoughts that this might never happen for us."

(This Mom had a great outcome, but how many others don't have great outcomes and no one to advocate for them?)

“Well we kind of promised this donor already to another couple, but we also promised her to you because we wanted to make sure she would cycle this spring.”
(You kind of promised this donor I already put money down on ??? Because the egg donor wanted to make sure she would have a for sure cycle in the spring at my expense?)

“Bleeding is normal, don’t sweat it.”
(Excuse me, bleeding is not normal, it’s COMMON but it’s not normal.)

And then there are the sighs, groans, teeth grating, and the tone of voice that occurs when you seem to ask a question that whoever is on the other end of the phone doesn’t want to deal with. All of the sudden we become big fat inconveniences and burdens, and that doesn’t make anyone feel great, I don’t’ care who you are.

And some clinics and agencies don’t bother returning calls or emails for days and days.
I have even had women ask me – “You don’t think the clinic would intentionally screw up my cycle because they don’t like me, think I am a pain in the neck, or a problem patient.”

Now that is just darn sad.

And your front office staff, your front line, who’s supposed to our first contact with your clinic or agency. News flash folks – If I can hear your receptionist refer to a patient on the phone as a pain in the ass or a bitch – then what in the hell are they saying about me the moment I hand you my check for the 500 bucks I once again spent at your clinic as I walk out the door?

With that being said, we KNOW and REALIZE we are not your only client or patient. We know you have other people to interact with other than us during your day. But our concerns, questions, and issues are valid. You can be rest assured if your clinic or agency called we’d be hopping to and returning a call in a 24 hour period.

From where I stand it’s all about an imbalance of power. The clinics and agencies have it, we don’t. They hold our reproductive lives in the palms of their hands. Is that the way it should be? I don’t think so. I think there needs to be a balance.

You are our service provider, we pay you for that service. One would think that in return for appropriate medical care we’d receive decent customer service.

One would think.

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Mothers may not tell after donor egg, sperm birth

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Older single mothers who became pregnant with both a donated egg and donated sperm say they will likely tell their child about the sperm donation some day, but aren't sure whether they will reveal the egg donation as well, new research from Israel shows.

In Israel, the identity of sperm and egg donors is kept confidential by law. Fertility treatment is available to all women, no matter their age or marital status. To date, Dr. Ruth Landau of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and her team say, researchers have not looked at single women in their 40s who conceive via in vitro fertilization (IVF) with both egg and sperm donation.

As part of a larger study on the physical and mental health of children born to single mothers and conceived with donor insemination, the researchers looked at 11 women who ranged in age from 36 to 50 when their child (or children, because three had twins) was born. Eight of the children were younger than 2, three were 2 to 4 years old, and three were older than 4 at the time of the study.

Ten of the mothers were single, while one had a female partner. Ten worked, with nine of them working more than 40 hours a week. All of their children were in day care or at school. According to their mothers, all the children were developmentally normal, while three had "minor emotional or behavioral difficulties."

Three of the women said they would like for their children to have information about his or her sperm donor when they reached age 18, while three other mothers said they would not want this, and five said they didn't know yet. None of them had yet told their children they were conceived with donor sperm, but all planned to do so when their children were older.

None of the mothers had told their children that they were conceived with donated eggs, and whether or not they would be likely to do so eventually was unclear.

Some concerns about this group of mothers include their age, the fact that they may more likely to become ill, the researchers say. Another study of single mothers of children born with donor insemination found just 22% were working full-time, the researchers add, while almost all of the women in the current study were, meaning that they "depended quite extensively on both their extended families and paid help, in addition to day care, kindergarten or school," they point out.

Given the youth of the children in the current study, it is difficult to determine if they will experience problems in the future, Landau and her team says. Nevertheless, they add, "our findings suggest that the impact of assisted reproduction on parenting and child development does not give undue cause for concern."

SOURCE: Fertility and Sterility, September 2008.