The ethics of egg donation in the over fifties

Smajdor, Anna
December 2008
Menopause International;Dec2008, Vol. 14 Issue 4, p173
Academic Journal
It has been conclusively demonstrated that postmenopausal women can gestate and give birth to children. However, to do so, they require donated oocytes, which are in short supply. In this paper, I explore a number of arguments for limiting access to donated oocytes to women of normal reproductive age. I consider the idea that older women have already had their chance to reproduce, and have chosen to forego it. I also consider the question of whether younger women have a more compelling clinical need, and ask whether the risks involved in postmenopausal motherhood are excessive. I argue that many of the concerns about postmenopausal motherhood are based on unjustified assumptions. Postmenopausal women are treated very differently to men of similar ages in the context of reproduction. I question whether this constitutes unjust discrimination or whether it reflects intrinsic differences between women's and men's reproductive capacities, and parental roles. In either case, women are often at a disadvantage and are subject to heavy social pressure in their reproductive choices. I conclude that there are no compelling reasons for a systematic ban on the use of donated oocytes in postmenopausal women. However, the procurement of oocytes for use in any woman raises some series ethical issues, and as new technologies and research avenues proliferate, pressure on this resource is likely to increase.


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