By Peter J. Smith

  LONDON, February 19, 2007 ( – Powerful drugs given to women egg-donors to harvest their eggs can cause paralysis, limb amputation and death warns a new study by Italian experts. The warning comes from researchers at the University of Padua just days before the United Kingdom’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is expected to endorse a controversial new policy allowing doctors to pay healthy women for harvesting their eggs for research purposes.

  The Daily Telegraph reports that the scientists at the University of Padua discovered in their study that 34 women suffered severe reactions to the hormone-stimulating drugs, which increase the number of eggs for extraction. Most of these women had previously enjoyed good health prior to the fertility treatment. An analysis of doctors’ reports since the early 1990s revealed to the researchers that 60 per cent of the accidents involved blood clots in the head and neck.

  The study, published in the journal Thrombosis and Thrombolysis, concludes that the occurrence of the number of side effects would rise as the number of assisted reproduction techniques increased. Among all women undergoing infertility treatment, one in 10 will suffer milder forms of an adverse reaction called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), while 1 percent will be at risk for life-threatening blood disorders.

  The study complements a growing body of research raising concerns about the effect of the high doses of hormones in egg-retrieval drugs on the health and safety of women, especially the development of some kinds of cancer.

  However, the HFEA is expected to approve Wednesday the recommendations of its influential Ethics and Law Committee, which has privately advocated the authority permit doctors and stem-cell researchers to pay women volunteers for harvesting their eggs. “The potential scientific gains outweigh the objections,” one source closely involved in the decision told The Observer, a British newspaper.

  The authority would permit women to donate for “altruistic reasons” and be paid £250 plus travel expenses. The eggs would then be used in human cloning techniques to conceive a human embryo, who would be allowed to grow for 14 days before being killed for his stem-cells.

  Josephine Quintavalle, from Comment on Reproductive Ethics, accused the HFEA of “losing sight of their duty to the welfare of patients”.

“This should be their first and only duty, not collecting eggs for research that has nothing to do with infertility,” she told the Telegraph. “The risk of a young woman dying as a result of these experiments, is really not a chance that anyone should be taking.”

  Donna Dickenson, emeritus professor of medical ethics and humanities at the University of London and one of Britain’s leading experts on the issue warned The Observer that the government’s eggs-for-cash scheme could lure many poor women into undergoing such a painful, invasive, and possibly dangerous medical procedure.

“The HFEA could be unwittingly opening the door to barter or sale of eggs, including women in Britain as well as abroad, even though it is saying that women doing this would do so for purely altruistic reasons,” said Dickenson.

“The sum of £250 would still be enough of an inducement for women from eastern Europe, for example, to come to Britain to sell their eggs. That’s clearly turning eggs into an object of trade and that’s disturbing. Once the principle of egg donation for research is established, it will become harder to prohibit paid egg donation.”

  Related coverage from

  UK Fertility Authority Proposes Allowing Egg Donation as Embryonic Stem Cell Source

  Researchers Begin to Clamor for Payment of Ova, Despite Unstudied Risks

  British Woman Died of Internal Bleeding After IVF Procedure

  Barely Studied Risks of Egg-Donation Come Under Scrutiny

  Feminist Revolutionary Warns of Exploitation of Women with Cloning Research