NGO objects at last minute to ova donation legislation

Donor Sibling Registry appeals to media after failing with MKs.

Just weeks before the long-awaited human ova donation bill is due to be passed into law, an organization representing ova and sperm donors, recipients and offspring has come out against it, arguing that giving ova can be very dangerous.
The Netherlands-based, non-profit, Web-based organization, the Donor Sibling Registry, claims to have 25,000 members around the world and 100 in Israel.
Sarah Raz, one of its Israeli activists, said the group tried to lobby against the government bill with every Knesset member but that effort got them nowhere.
Therefore, at the last minute, it has decided to turn to the press. Just a week ago, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation granted the bill continuity status, allowing a second and third reading of the bill in the plenum after it passed on its first reading in the previous Knesset.
If passed, the bill regulating human ovum donations will now allow Israeli women not undergoing fertility treatment to donate ova to those who desperately want to be mothers but have no eggs of their own.
For years, only women undergoing fertility treatment were allowed to donate eggs and the supply of ova was very sparse, forcing women to go abroad to purchase them.
The law would give financial compensation – the amount has not yet been decided –  for time, pain and expenses Israeli women donating spare ova undergo, but would prohibit the sale of human eggs in the country.
During the past decade, the bill was formulated by the Health Ministry, specifically its legal department and ran the gauntlet of a wide variety of doctors, clergymen, medical ethicists and other specialists before emerging in its final form.
Only recently, Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman – a Gur hassid representing the United Torah Judaism party – okayed it after discussing it with senior haredi rabbis and realizing that continuing the present shortage and the resulting purchase of eggs from non-Jewish women abroad would be worse.
Raz argued that “egg donation is a risky business for donors. Young women who donate eggs run the risk of incurring infertility, premature menopause, cancer and depression as a direct result of the drugs administered. Also, an average of two deaths a year of egg donors result in developed countries because of hyper-stimulation of the ovaries.”
The DSR demanded that only women who have already had two children should be allowed to donate because of the risk of infertility and early menopause; all prospective egg donors should undergo mandatory counseling prior to being able to begin the donation process; and that they be supplied easily comprehensible written information in their mother tongue, if their Hebrew is poor, about the real and possible risks they face.
“Without proper education of donors there can be no real informed consent,” said Raz.
In addition, it called for a mandatory, 30-day cooling-off period between counseling and beginning the donation process. Raz said that a proper compensation scheme should be established so that young women can be compensated as a result of medical harm they sustain in donating. In the case of death donors’ dependents should be compensated.
She also called for legislation that would prohibit life insurance companies from excluding an egg donor from coverage at any time in the future or charging higher policies due to donors’ higher risk of certain cancers.
The organization demands that an egg donor registry be established to track the health outcomes of ova donors on a long-term basis and that offspring be entitled to know the identity of the donor to deal with any genetic problems or psychological stresses due to their loss of genetic identity.
Asked to comment, Health Ministry legal adviser Mira Huebner said thatthe bill includes the requirement that potential donors receive printedinformation about possible risks and that afterwards, they would havethree days to consult with any doctor, rabbi or other person beforedeciding. A secret registry to ensure that the offspring do not marrysiblings would be established, said Huebner, but it would not follow upon donors’ health.
Huebner said that only after passage in a few weeks would she meet withTreasury officials to set down regulations to determine the size offinancial compensation. It would not, she stated, be high enough toencourage women to sell eggs for profit, as this would be illegal. Asfor insurance, those rules would be set down as well.
Huebner said that with the large number of gynecologists and otherphysicians involved in the bill and none of them voicing concern thatdonations would pose serious harm to participants – with even theIsrael Council for Bioethics approving it – she did not agree with theDSR’s conclusions.