egg donation: a journalist's personal story
June 28, 2014 6:00 AM   Subscribe

Justine Griffin, a reporter for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, decided to become an egg donor. She documents her journey in a three-part feature, The Cost of Life: "This began as a way for me to honor a childhood friend who passed away and a hopeful account of my experience with the fertility industry. But it devolved into a tangle of broken promises, scary science and questionable experiences — ending with a ruptured cyst on my ovary and a fear that my future reproductive health may be in jeopardy."

Riveter Magazine - Q&A with Justine Griffin on “The Cost of Life”

" that point is when I brought it up to my employer­–that I was going to be doing this procedure and I was happy to write about it because I would probably write about it for myself, anyway. I had planned to kind of blog and keep a diary just for my own personal account. I was upfront with my employer from the beginning, and they were interested in me writing about the experience. They had to know because I had to have a surgery and then I’d be out of the office. We thought it was going to be a lighthearted feature, a nice Sunday series for a couple of weeks, and it just changed very drastically as I started going through the procedure...

My goal at the end of it, once I was done with everything, was I want to write something so that next time a 19-year-old girl­–like me when I was in college and I saw this ad and started Googling it–can find my story and really get answers."
posted by flex (11 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
That first link was long and fascinating. Thanks flex.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 8:43 AM on June 28, 2014

Every time I read about the fertility industry, I get more and more angry at it. It really doesn't feel like there's a lot of ethical constraint to it, particularly when relating to the various donors or to the welfare of children produced (either because the procedures have an unknown risk of causing birth defects, or because they produce children into bad situations, like to excessively elderly parents). It certainly isn't ethical to use a procedure that hasn't been tested fully in a situation that is, ultimately, not in any way medically necessary.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:53 AM on June 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting this. I've seen the ads promising fast cash and have always been a bit suspicious, especially as it is an invasive medical procedure. I've never known the details of what the process involved though. Very insightful reading!
posted by Feyala at 7:53 PM on June 28, 2014

It's Daily Mail but very surprisingly careful: Donor IVF baby who says 'I wish I'd never been born': It's the great IVF taboo - how will a child feel about never knowing their biological parents? For this family, the answer was shattering.

This is just going to be such a mess in a decade. I hope it turns out to be a bump, the way the idea of raising transracial adoptees as their adoptive family's race has largely become, and that donor kids get access to their genetic families too.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:19 PM on June 28, 2014

I considered backing out. Pryor warned me that if I gave up now, I would have to pay back the cost of every test the couple had funded so far. Blood work. Physical exams. A mental health test. The sum was reaching into the thousands.

That was money I didn’t have.

WHAT. That's just blackmail. That's hideous medical coercion. I am vaguely sympathetic to infertile people as someone who is pretty badly infertile but the use of money and legal power to coerce other women into fertility is just revolting.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:24 PM on June 28, 2014 [11 favorites]

Okay, last comment for now because this article is hugely upsetting. The voices section at the end is very good too with a range of different experiences, including positive and anonymous. Griffin did a fantastic job on this piece, both in the writing and how she curated everything.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:37 PM on June 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

This was fascinating, thank you. I can't believe some of these stories about early menopause and fertility issues for the donors. The total disregard for her health after they had the eggs was unbelievable. Not to mention forcing her to take non-FDA approved drugs.

I went to clinic in response to one of these ads in college (over 20 years ago). They were paying $5,000 then, which makes $5,000 now seem like way too little. I opted out once they explained the regimen of hormones and the surgery, did not seem worth it.

Surrogacy is also incredibly fascinating - there's a lot of articles on metafilter about the business (including some about how India is a booming surrogacy market) and here's a personal story from the biological mother's perspective at the nytimes.
posted by rainydayfilms at 4:56 AM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is not at all surprising. The fertility industry is just following in the footsteps of the way the more unscrupulous aspects of the adoption industry have been operating for generations in their treatment of birth mothers. It is just one more way to exploit women for a product, then discard them. Secrets. lies, manipulation, and minimization of long-term grief and harm are just standard operating procedure. Thanks to Justine Griffin for having the courage to document the abuses of IVF and egg donation.
posted by mermayd at 5:58 AM on June 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yow. I'm with viggorlijah -- the shit with "if you back out, you have to pay for all the tests" should be illegal. That's horrific.
posted by tavella at 2:31 PM on June 30, 2014

Yeah, "if you back out you have to pay for everything so far" seems like outright blackmail. But it's also a tricky situation from the other side - presumably the couple paying for this doesn't want to be told, "Oh your donor backed out after getting a comprehensive free physical, so you'll have to pay from scratch again." That's a real mess, and I don't know how to balance that.

I'll also take quibble with one statement: "The eggs in my ovaries made me valuable. Without them, there is no in vitro fertilization, no surrogate mothers, no baby making business."
Well, the IVF industry makes plenty of money even before the egg donation aspect comes up. It's a pretty slick treadmill they have going - first the fertility stimulation shots, then consider this and that medical escalation, then consider IVF with your own eggs, then maybe some pre-implantation genetic testing of the fertlized embryos, then consider egg donation, and finally maybe a surrogate carrier. (I don't know if they're already up to pushing donated embryos with surrogate carriers, paid for by the parents...)

It's just mind boggling and - if you're on this treadmill - utterly heartbreaking.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:53 PM on June 30, 2014

It's just mind boggling and - if you're on this treadmill - utterly heartbreaking.

It's also worth noting that it's largely American, and the way it is in America isn't the way it has to be. Other countries have very different, non-commodity systems for egg donation, surrogacy, and adoption. Some are worse, but many are more progressive.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:53 PM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

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