Two women with ovarian problems have produced fertile eggs through in vitro fertilization using sperm from their husbands and eggs donated from anonymous females, a nonprofit organization supporting fertility treatment said Monday.
While there have been 24 cases in Japan in which women have given birth by using sperm from their husbands and eggs from their sisters or friends, it is the first time that complete strangers had donated the eggs.
The development could bring attention to a host of issues Japan needs to deal with over egg donation, including ensuring the rights of children to know about their origins and compensation for health problems that donors could face when offering eggs.
The fertile eggs will undergo screening for hepatitis and other diseases before being implanted in the two female patients — both in their 30s and suffering from premature menopause — possibly by the end of this year. The donors are also in their 30s and have children.
The children to be born will be notified before they enter elementary school that people other than their mothers have donated eggs, according to Kobe-based NPO OD-Net, or Oocyte Donation Network.
If the children wish to do so, they can also learn about the donors when the reach the age of 15.
The organization quoted one of the donors as saying she offered her eggs in the hope she can “help couples having a hard time in fertility treatment.”
One of the patients said in a statement: “I am overwhelmed with gratitude toward the donor. Now it is my turn to try hard.”
OD-Net in January 2013 started soliciting volunteers under age 35 to donate eggs on an anonymous basis to women who can’t produce eggs due to illnesses but are capable of giving birth.
Because two cases satisfied medical conditions, OD-Net said in April this year that an ethics panel of an institution consisting of fertility treatment clinics gave the green light to their treatment.
On in vitro fertilization involving people other than a couple, a health ministry panel said in a 2003 report that eggs should be donated only from an anonymous third person because receiving eggs from a close person could complicate family relationships.
But it has been nearly impossible for individuals to find an anonymous egg donor. With no laws or regulations on egg donations, patients’ sisters or friends have usually become donors.
Sachiko Kishimoto, the head of OD-Net, said: “There are mixed reactions to in vitro fertilization involving people other than a married couple, but I want people to know there are many couples wishing (to undergo the treatment).
“We want (the government) to swiftly prepare laws, thinking about people who are donating eggs without being paid and without compensation,” she said.