The illegal trade of human eggs in Cyprus returned to the limelight during this week’s House human rights committee, with MPs expressing concern over a growing market in which female students are prime targets.
While local legislation governing egg donation allows for a certain sum to be paid to cover any medical or transport expenses of the donor, or to cover any loss of income as a result their absence from work, the purchasing and trafficking of female eggs remains illegal. The resulting gray area appears to be allowing the human egg trade market to operate unhindered on the island.
MPs at the House human rights committee said that the common practice emerging in Cyprus involves young female students being approached and persuaded to donate their eggs in exchange for a sum that ranges between 800 and 1000 euros.
But it can be assumed that the women approached are not informed of the risks involved with the procedure, which can be a lengthy, painful and potentially dangerous procedure involving the injection of a drug known as follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH, which could case serious side-effects know as ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS) that in extreme cases can prove fatal
Information obtained by Kathimerini Cyprus also pointed to a gynaecologist that tried to persuade his 19-year-old patient to become an egg donor.
“It’s different when it happens for financial motives and not for altruistic reasons, for example to help another woman that is having fertility problems,” opposition party AKEL MP Skevi Koukouma told the committee.
Koumouma added that “the possibility that this is happening repeatedly appears to be real.”
Cyprus legislation states that a woman can only donate eggs once, with the eggs to be used by a family or a single person. A woman is legally allowed to donate eggs for a second time if the donation concerns a case of medically assisted reproduction of a permanent resident abroad.
But the waters become muddy due to the absence of a central registry of donors, meaning women in dire need of money could be paid for repetitive egg donations that form goldmines for fertility clinics that then sell off those eggs to infertile couples who will travel across the globe looking for ‘miracle babies’.
While assisted reproduction clinics on the island keep their own records, they can nevertheless not know whether a woman has donated eggs in the past through other institutions.
Police spokesperson Christos Andreou told Kathimerini Cyprus that the force has not received any relevant complaints, nor are they investigating any such cases.
Also speaking before the committee, AKEL MP Eleni Mavrou said her party has relayed information of such practices to both the health ministry and the Cyprus bioethics committee, but noted that “it is difficult to secure evidence for a case, since egg donations are allowed so when there is no proof of trafficking then authorities are also unable to intervene.”
The island’s bustling egg harvesting market has been exposed several times in the past. In one expose, an investigation by the Guardian in 2006 referred to the Petra Fertility Clinic that operated just outside of Limassol until police shut it down in 2010. The clinic paid Ukrainian girls $500 to fly there and donate eggs, before charging $5,000 for treatment for multi-embryo implants, the report said, before moving onto several more shocking occurrences on the island.