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Health Minister Ya'acov Edri - who just took office two weeks ago - has instructed his legal department to advance a bill expanding the pool of potential ova donors.
The shortage of human eggs needed by infertile couples has caused much hardship and even led to a "black market" on ova that put prominent gynecologists under police investigation.
At present, only women who are themselves undergoing fertility treatments may donate spare ova to others, and no money may pass hands between the recipient and the donor.
Edri said he wanted other women to be able to donate eggs on a voluntary basis, even though that entails some health risks because hormones are given to "ripen" them and they are removed in surgery. Donation by women who are not undergoing fertility treatments themselves had originally been ruled out due to concern that it would lead to illegal sales of ova and needlessly endanger women.
On Thursday, ministry legal adviser Mira Huebner dispatched to the relevant government ministries the proposed government legislation. The basic criteria for donor and recipient, such as age, health condition and status, were included.
The bill also proposes that identifying details about the donors and recipients will be stored in a protected database to preserve the basic rights of all. The donor would be given the right to decide the number of ova that would be used, and if they will go to produce embryos or for research. The one condition is that the number of eggs to be given to infertile couples must be higher than that donated for other purposes.
The database of details on babies resulting from such donations would be kept secret but allow the grown children eventually to request information to make sure they don't marry close relatives. The database would be accessible by marriage registrars as well and be run by thestate-appointed official who supervises adoptions.
Edri said he was certain the bill would encourage more women to give ova. Huebner added that the proposed legislation was formulated on the basis of recommendations by a public committee of doctors, medical ethicists, lawyers and social workers, and that great effort and thought were invested in it by the Health and Justice ministries.
Meanwhile, Labor Chairman Amir Peretz, who met on Thursday with President Moshe Katsav in the latter's office, asked him to use his influence to guarantee the inclusion of life-saving medications in the health basket.
Peretz told reporters that he was confident that if Katsav were to intervene on such a vital issue, many people who were going into debt to pay for such medications, and other people suffering from life-threatening illnesses who were going without medication because they cannot pay for it, will be given an additional lease on life.
Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.
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