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A dangerous solution

BY SHAKIRA SMILER

Published May 26, 2008

Economic conditions in the United States have left both college students and full-time employees frustrated and desperate when it comes to money matters. If you're like me, paying for housing, personal bills and school expenses with the income from a part-time job is impossible. One controversial solution for broke college women is egg donation.

I'll be the first to admit that desperate times call for desperate measures - I, too, have seriously considered being an egg donor. We see advertisements for it all around campus, even on the Student Employment website. In fact, there is a new reproductive assistance clinic that opened recently in Ann Arbor known as The Stork Society.

According to their website, donors can make anywhere from $5,500 to $7,000 for simply donating a few eggs to an infertile couple. Students are even able to name their own price if they have an advanced degree or a high IQ. The only requirements for applicants are that you be between the ages of 19 and 33, drug-free, healthy, and HIV/hepatitis negative. The idea of being an egg donor is pretty tempting, especially to students who are financially independent.

If selected, the process doesn't sound too bad either. A donor goes through about a three-and-a-half-week process consisting of daily fertility shots, regular bloodtests and ultrasound scans. When it is time to remove the eggs, a doctor sedates the donor, inserts a needle into the ovaries and removes the eggs via a suctioning vacuum.

The procedure takes only minutes, and while there may be some slight discomfort like cramping aftward, on the whole the process doesn't sound too bad - Why wouldn't a woman sinking deeply in debt jump at the chance to get paid $5,500 to do it? Egg donation seems like the best deal since the Victoria's Secret Semi-Annual sale.

And it's addicting. Repeat donors earn a pay increase of $1,000 or more, and some women have been known to donate eggs more than ten times.

More importantly, being an egg donor allows you to help a couple unable to produce their own children make their dreams of having a family come true. Many women who are born with an inability to conceive a child desperately seek out donors to aid them in the process of giving birth to a child. Who wouldn't be honored to say they were partly responsible for granting someone's ultimate wish in life?

Being an egg donor appears to be a fast and rewarding way to earn money, and can be beneficial to all parties involved. But if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The potential health risks that aren't mentioned may cost you way more than $5,500 bucks in the long run.

For instance, donating eggs increases your risk of developing ovarian cancer, and cysts may develop on ovaries, resulting in fluid build up. According to the New York Times, there have been reports of deaths in the United States and Britain due to donation-related complications.

Because donors are anonymous and many facilities do a poor job of keeping records, treating medical conditions in children, inherited from egg donors, is a difficult. There hasn't really been any adequate follow-up and research with donors to determine long term health impacts, and being an egg donor may mean you become infertile yourself.

Being an egg donor can mean helping someone give life to their own family, but for the most part it means getting cut a fat check to help make ends meet. Several college students rush to sign up as a donor because it seems to be easy money without truly considering how it could potentially destroy their lives. Although it may help you make a few thousand dollars, your physical and mental health is priceless.

Shakira Smiler can be reached at stsmiler@umich.edu.