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An Economist Examines the Business of Fertility

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Saturday, March 05, 2016 | 0 comments

Image: Debora Spar compares the fertility industry to the Internet
Reproductive technologies allow some people who previously couldn't have babies to do that.

In almost every human society, perhaps 15 percent of the population is infertile, so there's always been a big demand for babies.

Right now, the estimated average cost of producing a baby through these new treatments in the U.S. can be well over $50,000.

As I looked into it, I became convinced that reproductive technology was a market — with supply, demand and price coming together in a transaction.

Question: At Columbia University, there are ads in the student newspaper offering to pay tall blondes with high SAT's $8,000 to $20,000 for eggs to be used by infertile couples. Is this a good price?

Answer: Hmm. I think the price for Harvard eggs is higher, around $25,000. There have been ads offering even $50,000 and $100,000 for "exceptional eggs" though no one's ever come forward to say they've gotten that much.

The donor typically is young — 20 to 21 years old. She's run up the credit card bills, and she doesn't want Mom and Dad to know. She sees these very pretty ads in the school newspaper and this seems like a good way to solve a problem. The concern is that we don't know the long-term effects of doing this.

For egg extractions in general, there have been a couple of instances of horrific side effects. There are lots of cases of smaller ones. When you take large doses of hormones to produce eggs — either as a donor or an infertile woman — you're going to have bloating, mood swings, discomfort. All this is manageable.

But if you do that three or four times, are there longer-term effects we don't yet know about?

Full article: An Economist Examines the Business of Fertility

Photo credit: Jodi Hilton for The New York Times
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TODAY'S BOOK SUGGESTION:
Image: The Baby Business: How Money, Science, and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception, by Debora L. Spar. Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (February 14, 2006)-The Baby Business: How Money, Science, and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception
by Debora L. Spar

-- Despite legislation that claims to prohibit it, there is a thriving market for babies spreading across the globe.

Fueled by rapid advances in reproductive medicine and the desperate desires of millions of would-be parents, the acquisition of children—whether through donated eggs, rented wombs, or cross-border adoption — has become a multi-billion dollar industry that has left science, law, ethics, and commerce deeply at odds.

In The Baby Business, Debora Spar argues that it is time to acknowledge the commercial truth about reproduction and to establish a standard that governs its transactions.

In this fascinating behind-the-scenes account, she combines pioneering research and interviews with the industry's top reproductive scientists and trailblazers to provide a first glimpse at how the industry works: who the baby-makers are, who makes money, how prices are set, and what defines the clientele.

Fascinating stories illustrate the inner workings of market segments--including stem cell research, surrogacy, egg swapping, designer babies, adoption, and human cloning -- as Spar explores the moral and legal challenges that industry players must address.

The first purely commercial look at an industry that deals in humanity's most intimate issues, this book challenges us to consider the financial promise and ethical perils we'll face as the baby business moves inevitably forward.

Image: Buy Now on Amazon.comHardcover: 302 pages
Click to order/for more info: The Baby Business







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Catherine

About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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