How much for a dozen?

CHEATED: Khanyi spoke candidly about her experience. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

CHEATED: Khanyi Ntsenge spoke candidly about her experience. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

From being on the pill for a month, to injecting herself every day, twice a day for two weeks, to having one simple operation that she couldn’t even recall, one Witsie has given the gift of life to a couple.

The money

Young women can make up to R6 000 by giving their eggs to couples who cannot produce on their own, said Colleen Oates from Baby Miracles.   [pullquote align=”right”]“We have a set fee of R6 000, but I feel it needs to go up a bit”[/pullquote]

“Some couples pay the clinic up to R60 000 for treatments and they have a 55% success rate,” said Oates. Clinics make 90% more than the girls donating their eggs. “We have a set fee of R6 000, but I feel it needs to go up a bit,” said Oates. She said people commit themselves and make others’ dreams come true, which should count for something.

The Injections

Girls who donate have to inject hormones that make their eggs larger, which can and often does change their hormones before and after treatment. Some feel bloated, sluggish and get enlarged breasts as side effects, like Witsie Khanyi Ntsenge.

Ntsenge, a 22-year-old honours student in demography, said the money was never a motivating factor for her to donate. She just knew she had nothing to lose. “After the operation I ate and signed an indemnity form to get my R6 000. But I hardly remember that because I was so drugged up,” said Ntsenge.

Dr Trudy Smith, a gynaecologist at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital, said the consequences of donating don’t really make sense to her. “You are on drugs that make you fat and moody,” said Smith.

She said donations made should not be motivated by money but rather out of genuine care for helping a childless person, preferably one you are close to. Ntsenge said she wouldn’t have donated if she hadn’t passed the psychological test that checks if you are able to deal with donating your eggs.

No satisfaction

Ntsenge did however feel “cheated” when the process ended in no more than 30 minutes. “You don’t get to see the fruits of your labour – it’s horrible,” said Ntsenge. She said she was shocked by how quickly things came to end once her eggs were harvested. She said if you wanted to be a martyr for donating, you would be left disappointed.

[pullquote]“It wouldn’t be legal if we were making people infertile”[/pullquote] Ntsenge met a woman who was there to receive an egg on the day Ntsenge donated.

Hearing the woman’s story helped lessen Ntsenge’s anti-climatic feelings. But she still stressed that “logic is not the same as emotions” so it took time to accept what had happened. Oates said women who donate are not taking any eggs away from their “store”. The hormones they inject only help women to produce more eggs than they normally would.

“It wouldn’t be legal if we were making people infertile,” said Oates. Oates said that to be eligible to donate girls need to be between the ages of 21 and 32. She said 21 years of age is old enough to make such a decision and 32 is the cut-off age because “the quality of eggs deteriorate when women reach about 35 years of age”.


Law clear on egg donation

According to a recent law programme on VoWfm, whether or not payment for egg donation is legal can be confusing. But the law is very clear.

According to the National Health Act of 2003, it is illegal for a person to “receive any form of financial or other reward” for the donation of eggs and sperm.

However, section 60(4)(a) of the Act makes an exception in the case that the donor had to incur costs in order to make the donation: “…except for the reimbursement of reasonable costs incurred by him or her to provide such donation.”

Wits Vuvuzela carries adverts for egg donation from agencies such a Baby Miracle and DonorLife .

The Baby Miracles advert reads: “Donate your eggs to a childless couple and be well reimbursed.” DonorLife reads: “Wanted … healthy ladies aged 21-33 … Paid R5 500 to R6 000 … Become an egg donor …”

Thulani Nkosi, a candidate attorney at the Wits Law Clinic, said during the VoWfm that compensation for egg donation is “definitely” illegal.

However he also agreed with other panel members that the current reimbursement process is legal.

The confusion arose around the legality of receiving payment for donating any human tissue.

Wits law lecturer Desia Colgan explained in the same programme on VoWfm: “The law says that people may not be paid for donation of their tissue. However, there is an agreed amount that women are given as a donation. [This] is deemed a donation and not a payment, and that’s really for reimbursement for the inconvenience of going to the clinic, for their scans, for taking time off work and for availing themselves for this process.”

She said the reimbursement is a fixed amount and is neither negotiable nor dependant on the donor’s loss of income.

VoWfm reporter Rethabile Makhetha phoned Baby Miracles undercover as “Cindy” to find out more about the process. Contact person Colleen Oates explained the procedure and confirmed that it is both safe and legal. She said donors receive R6 000 on the day their eggs are taken. She also said many students are donating and most do it more than once.

Jenny Currie, from the Baby2mom egg donation agency, said that all such professional agencies are registered with a body in South Africa that governs the ethics of the process.

Listen to the podcast of the VoWfm program here.