Susan Cieutat is a nurse, an attorney, and she runs the San Francisco Donor Network, which connects hopeful mothers with prospective egg donors. Below is her response to a story on egg donation that aired on Crosscurrents on January 25, 2012. Cieutat says that story portrayed a "very false image of egg donation."
SUSAN CIEUTAT: Egg donation is a wonderful opportunity for a young woman to give a precious gift to others. I think that, fundamentally, most people want a chance in life to do something heroic and egg donation gives young women that opportunity. I’ve had the privilege of working with over 300 couples who used egg donors, thus enabling them to realize their dream of starting a family.
Egg donation has been in use for over 25 years. It’s a safe and routine procedure, and there’s no evidence of any adverse, long-term effects. The risks are minimal, and potential egg donors are fully informed about the process before they begin. And they are well compensated for their time.
The piece that aired a few weeks ago portrayed egg donations as unsafe and egg donors as young, naïve woman who are being exploited. This has not been my experience at all. Having worked with egg donors for the past eight years, I have found that they are generous, thoughtful and intelligent woman. They’re usually college-educated, and understand fully what they are doing. A large majority of egg donors choose to donate multiple times, as they find the procedures safe and easy and experience no side effects or complication. Numerous studies on the long-term effects of the medications used in egg donation have found that there is no correlation between those drugs and any type of cancer: uterine, ovarian, or breast.
In the show, Ms. Chin stated that the takeaway from her research was that the fertility community is woefully unprepared when things go wrong. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. Donors are very closely monitored throughout the entire procedure. The potential complications are well understood, these days usually avoided, and well managed when they do occur, which is about 2 percent of the time. It’s difficult to understand how Ms. Chin came to the conclusion, given that the example she cited was of a woman who experienced a complication and was completely taken care of. And that young woman stated that she was glad that she had been a donor multiple times and found the experience highly rewarding. For me, the takeaway from a close examination of egg donation is that it’s a highly rewarding experience for young women and their recipients.
These days, many woman postpone having children until their forties, for a myriad of reasons, only to find that they are no longer able to conceive a child. Any woman who has struggled with the ache in her heart of wondering if she would ever be able to have a child of her own knows that there is nothing more joyful then that moment of holding her new born baby in her arms for the first time. That is what egg donation is fundamentally about.