Schoolgirl’s brush with death from selling her eggs casts spotlight on China’s black market
Teenager sold 21 of her eggs for US$2,200 in an illegal operation
A teenage schoolgirl nearly died in southern China after she underwent surgery to sell about two dozen of her eggs to an illegal fertility and surrogacy agency.
The case highlights the black market on the mainland selling women’s eggs to infertile couples who can now try for up to two children after the scrapping of the one-child policy.
The girl, whose name was not given and studies at a technical school, got to know employees at the Bei Er Qi Yuan Science and Technology Company last year, according a statement released by the Guangdong province health and family planning commission.
Friends had told the girl about the money to made at fertility clinics and she agreed to sell her eggs for 15,000 yuan (US$2,200) for each surgical procedure, the statement said.
She received injections over 10 days to stimulate her ovaries and had surgery last October, the statement said.
But three days later she fell seriously ill and had to be treated in hospital.
Doctors later said both her ovaries were seriously damaged.
Two members of staff at the agency were arrested and in April they were each jailed for one year and 10 months for practising medicine illegally, according to the statement.
It is the first case investigated by the province’s commission into surrogacy and egg sales that led to a criminal conviction, the agency said.
The girl told the Southern Metropolis News that she and three other girls were taken by van to a house to have the surgery, with the vehicle’s windows covered with curtains so they did not know where they were going.
The judge in the trial was quoted by the newspaper as saying that the women involved in the egg-selling cases were generally young, often students at colleges or high schools. They were tempted by surrogacy agencies to sell their eggs while ignoring the damage the surgery could cause to their bodies.
Surrogacy brokers in Nanjing in Jiangsu province offered female students at universities between 30,000 yuan to 80,000 yuan per egg donation, with “good looking”, well-educated women commanding the highest prices, the Modern Express newspaper reported in June.
A study by the China Population Association four years ago suggested that more than 40 million people on the mainland, or one in eight couples, were infertile.
Chinese regulations ban medical institutions or doctors from involvement in surrogacy, but there are no restrictions governing other institutions, hampering police efforts to tackle the issue.
The Guangdong health authority urged government departments to strengthen cooperation to crack down on surrogacy and the illegal sale of women’s eggs.
“Surrogacy institutions divide their chain into different sections. Their offices, places to remove eggs, laboratories, rooms where surrogate mothers live, are all at different locations and managed by different employees,” said the authority. “So their operation involves various regions. It is hidden and is rigorously organised.”
The health authority said it needed the help of other authorities to gather evidence and bring prosecutions.
“Other departments’ cooperation is needed. [We should] establish a long-term mechanism to fight against surrogacy,” it said.