Alarm over ‘travelling egg donors’

2012-05-18 00:00

HUNDREDS of young South African women are being recruited to become paid egg donors in India, fuelling a call for an official investigation.

The Southern African Society of Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy (Sasreg) confirmed it has reported complaints about the practice to the national Health Department for further investigation.

Sasreg’s Dr Sulaiman Heylen told Media24 Investigations that complaints had been laid with the department about three international agencies that have recruited women in SA.

Heylen and other medical experts have expressed their concern about the travelling egg donors.

Heylen said they are concerned about the aftercare treatment for the South African donors.

Various experts believe that the young women regard the trips as a paid vacation without realising the risks attached to egg donation.

In South Africa donors may not be paid although they can be compensated up to R7 000 for “inconvenience”.

SurrogacyIndia, a fertility clinic in Mumbai that recruits many South African donors, states on its website that while it does not follow the Western industry payment standard of $7 000 (about R60 000), it guarantees a “safe and transparent financial transaction”.

In addition to payment, the donor’s travelling and accommodation costs and other expenses are also met.

Approached for comment, SurrogacyIndia’s founder and director, Dr Sudhir Ajja, replied: “I will appreciate it if you could furnish me with more information about yourself and help me to understand how you managed to get hold of our ‘e-mail identification’.”

Ajja declined to answer any further questions from Media24 Investigations about the South African donors.

Heylen said Sasreg had not only condemned this practice and reported to the authorities but had also: laid charges against three recruiting agencies (whose names are known to Media24 Investigations) with the Health Department; confronted the three agencies on numerous occasions; instructed all Sasreg members not to participate in the recruitment; instructed individual doctors to stop any recruitment; and imposed guidelines to prevent it.

The three agencies that Sasreg identified as recruiting women for India operate out of the United States, the UK and elsewhere.

Doron Mamet, of the Tammuz-International Surrogacy recruitment group, said that while he did not operate an agency in SA, “we have donors who travel from SA to India”.

“It is difficult to say how much they are being paid because that will be determined by the time they spend away from work, food and such things – why I think it is the same as in SA.

Donors from all across the world are being flown to India by various agencies.

“I estimate that hundreds of donors from SA fly annually to India,” he said.

The SA Police Service could not confirm that a case had been opened for investigation, although spokesperson Colonel Vish Naidoo did say that “a woman has laid a charge with the police about an overseas egg donation”. He was unable to provide further details.

The Department of Health did not respond to requests for comment on the investigation.

• Investigations@Media24.com

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