Buying human eggs – who are we exploiting?
So I think buying human embryos is fraught with moral and ethical issues but what about human eggs? This article seems to think it’s unethical because the program that buys eggs (for stem cell research) might exploit poor women. There are two issues that are getting mixed up here:
- buying a human body part
- buying part or all of a human
In the first case you could look at buying an egg like you do buying a kidney or buying blood plasma. Within body parts there are two kinds, ones with an infinite supply (like plasma) and ones with a very finite supply (like kidneys.) For parts with a finite supply, I think we definitely have to make sure that we don’t take advantage of people. Desperate people might sell something they really can’t afford to sell or they might be coerced into it and there’s no way to really give it back to them. In the case of infinite supply, I don’t see any problem with paying for it. We pay for lots of different kinds of output from our bodies like construction work, sitting at a desk for hours, or participating in medical studies. Those all take a toll on your body that is supposedly reversible and replenishable but costs you something and you get compensated for it. Eggs, if they are a "human body part" fall into the replenishable category. We have so many of them, it’s unlikely we are going to run out.
However, if you look at human eggs as potential human beings, then you have a whole different issue. This is like buying and selling embryos – you are just buying half of an embryo. And since you can easily acquire sperm from a sperm bank or other source, you can easily make an embryo. Add a surrogate mom and you have a human being. When you sell human eggs, you once again come close to trafficing in humans and there’s a whole slew of legal, ethical and moral issues that need to be addressed!
So I’d argue that when an organization buys human eggs they aren’t exploiting the woman, but they are potentially exploiting a child depending on what they plan to do with that egg.