Egg harvesting and Embryonic Stem-cell Research Pose Serious Threat to Women’s Health
By Peter J. Smith
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 13, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A congressional hearing last Thursday raised awareness on the risks to women’s health and fertility by in vitro fertilization (IVF), human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, where experts testified the techniques and drugs involved posed unacceptable risks to women.
Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) co-sponsored the congressional briefing “Trading on the Female Body” March 8, International Women’s Day, where health experts, and a mother who lost her daughter from health complications from IVF, testified on the severe dangers to women’s lives posed by fertility and human cloning technologies.
"Current practices follow a historical pattern of exposing women to risks that prove ultimately unacceptable," said Diane Beeson, PhD., chairwoman of the group “Hands Off Our Ovaries”, at a Capitol Hill press conference.
"The harvesting of multiple eggs often involves the administration of drugs that have not been approved for this purpose," she continued. "Also these drugs have not been adequately studied for their long-term effects on women despite research providing some evidence of significant harm to women in both the short term and long term."
A recent study by scientists at the University of Padua found 1 in 10 women undergoing fertility treatment will suffer milder forms of an adverse reaction to the drugs called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), while 1 percent will be at risk for life-threatening blood disorders. Researchers also analyzed doctors’ reports since the early 1990s and discovered 60 percent of fertility treatment accidents involved blood clots in the head and neck.
The UK Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists also wrote in their 2006 guidelines on hyperstimulation that noticeable reactions occur in 33% of IVF cycles, with an estimated 3-8% of patients showing moderate to severe reactions. Severe can mean blood clots, renal and liver dysfunction and acute respiratory distress leading to serious morbidity, while two international women – one in Dublin and another in London – are believed to have died from severe OHSS.
Angela Hickey told the hearing that she lost her daughter Jac¬queline Rushton, 32, who underwent the IVF treatment and experienced severe OHSS, which put her body into Adult Respiratory Distress, causing her death.
Dr. Beeson noted that currently no registries exist to track the health of women who undergo IVF treatment, despite the real possibility of long term risks of ovarian, uterine, vaginal and breast cancer associated with the drugs used to boost egg production.
"Egg harvesting is taking place in a research climate marked by conflicts of interest, the misleading use of language to describe research goals, and a commercial push that may lead to the exploitation of young women," she argued.
The Arizona Republic reports that fertility clinics or egg collection businesses may offer anywhere from $5, 000 to $50,000 dollars for women to donate their eggs, and often solicit coeds for the procedure, who are often in debt and unaware of the risks to their fertility.
Josephine Quintavalle – founder Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE), pointed out that many of these women may believe the myth that they have “millions of eggs to spare.” However, only an estimated 500 oocytes of the 14 million formed in utero are available at the beginning of a woman’s menstrual life.
“This concern is timely in light of renewed efforts in Congress to fund destructive embryonic stem cell research in the name of pursuing cures," said Deirdre McQuade, the pro-life spokeswoman for the US Bishops, who explained that damage caused by embryonic stem-cell research goes far beyond the embryos destroyed by “a great many women as egg factories, at great risk to their health and safety.”
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