College Advice: Consider Donating Your Eggs
As you know, economic times are a bit rough nowadays. Especially in New York City, it’s all about keeping up with the Joneses; but as a broke college student, I can barely keep up with the Joneses’ maids.
I think I may have found a solution to my money problems, but I’m a little hesitant. In my dorm and around all the buildings on campus, there are ads for companies “Seeking Special Egg Donors.” I’m almost 21, and they say that if I donate my eggs, I can help out a family AND make $8,000. That’s $8,000 more than I’m making right now! I’m nervous about committing, though. What if I have kids in the future, and they start dating my egg-kids? Will this make me infertile? Is it ethically questionable? Should I donate my eggs?
Egg donation is a fascinating subject, and one which isn’t widely discussed, so I took the time to talk to some people before writing you an answer. (I hope you’ll forgive the delay.) The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me that the topic is so rarely addressed. I think most people find it too much to deal with — which is not a very smart way to go about making life decisions, although we’re all guilty of it, I’m sure.
Firstly, the obvious, technical advice: make sure to get the best possible medical information before you make your decision. I’m a little bit worried that your desire for spare cash might compromise your objectivity here. I’m not a doctor, but I know that egg donation carries risks for your fertility and your wider health. It may also carry risks for the offspring. Do your best to weigh immediate gains against long-term costs.
Nevertheless, while there are drawbacks to egg donation, there are also medical drawbacks to jello shots, and ADD medication, and hookah, and cigarettes, and resting your laptop near your genitals, and eating in the dining hall, and a lot of other things college students do regularly. I’ve found that moral condescension is often thinly-veiled as disproportionate concern for someone’s health (how often have you or your friends heard, “Aren’t you cold?”, or my favorite: “Don’t you worry about AIDS?”). The health component is there, certainly; but it’s a matter of emphasis. Similarly, my experience working in GYN has given me informal grounds for concluding that feelings of guilt can often manifest themselves as concern for one’s own health. A friend of mine put it bluntly: “Everyone thinks they’re dying when they first start having sex.”
The answer you’re looking for is a comparison of degrees, of relative advantages and drawbacks; we’re navigating subtle territory here. It’s also something of an obscure topic. As a result, little reasonable, objective analysis of your problem is available. You’re going to have to do that work yourself. I suggest breaking the question into parts, and then tackling them individually.
If the medical risks don’t offput you (and that’s a BIG “if,” and one I’m not qualified to advise you about), your next step should be to discuss or research your legal options. There are open donations, just like open adoptions, where you can contractually obtain the right to be a part of the kid’s life, should the egg-recipient conceive, eliminating the risk of your egg-kids dating your real ones — although I’m sure you could make a lot more than $8000 by marketing that premise for TV. You’ll also want to make sure you’re well-insured in case of malpractice, however unlikely that is. (And be really, reeeeallly nice to your doctor.)
The messy part is the ethical stuff. Making a decision about something like this forces you to commit to stances on a variety of questions. For instance, what, if anything, is the innate value of human life? Is there an elevated moral value to the creation of life, and the naturalness of that creation? What is our ethical obligation when we make decisions on behalf people unable to decide things for themselves? And how are any moral drawbacks counterbalanced by the benefit of helping a couple conceive?
Personally, I believe that while privileging the natural where reproduction is concerned is probably an instinct that once had evolutionary benefits, modern technology has rendered that advantage obsolete. I believe that reproduction is a physical and chemical process, just like everything we do. While it affects people’s lives deeply, in this case, the joy an infertile couple takes in receiving an egg makes egg donation an ethically beneficial act, to my eyes, unless it severely compromises the donor’s health. For what it’s worth, I’d say you’re in the clear.
But I’m just an advice columnist; in the end, it’s your call. I can’t help you with the ethical part of the decision. All I can do for you is point out that we can’t conclude that because more women aren’t egg donors, it’s an insane idea. Rather, I think that most people prefer deferring to custom over making the effort to answer these questions for themselves. The high market value of eggs is, at least in part, a reward for being among the few whom custom fails to intimidate, in my view. Do a little research, think about what you believe, and act on your intuition.
As a last remark, a word of financial advice: $8000 is actually a relatively low figure for egg donation. Personal ads or other services might be able to get you up to $20,000. A friend of mine actually made a bit more than that last year, although she claims she made more because she was a blond. Don’t sell yourself short.
Just do me a favor, all right, FF? Don’t spend the cash on an iPhone or a couple of rounds of drinks or a new wardrobe. Use it to make something beautiful happen. Buy yourself an instrument, or sublet a room with a view in your favorite city, or elope or something. Get out of the country. Learn another language. Get out of student-loan-debt, if you can. Or put it all away, while you’re still young, and retire on it. (It’s actually quite feasible. You heard it here.) The point is that this is a chance to make a concrete decision about your values, FF, to command your own life, to look it in the eye. It might also be a chance for an infertile woman somewhere.
Send your questions about college life anonymously to VeronicaMittnacht@thefastertimes.com.
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