Egg donation for stem cell research: ideas of surplus and deficit in Australian IVF patients' and reproductive donors' accounts.

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Journal Article
Sociology of health & illness, 2012, 34 (4), pp. 513 - 528
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We report on a study undertaken with an Australian in vitro fertilisation (IVF) clinic to understand IVF patients' and reproductive donors' perceptions of oocyte (egg) donation for stem cell research. Such perspectives are particularly valuable because IVF patients form a major recruitment group for oocyte donation for research, and because patients and donors have direct experience of the medical procedures involved. Similar studies of oocyte donation have been carried out elsewhere in the world, but to date very little social science research has been published that reports on donation for research, as distinct from donation for reproduction. Our respondents expressed a distinct unwillingness to donate viable oocytes for stem cell research. In our analysis we consider a number of factors that explain this unwillingness. These include the labour of oocyte production, the inscrutability of oocytes (the lack of a test to identify degrees of fertility) and the extent to which the oocytes' fertility sets the parameters for all downstream reproductive possibilities. We draw on the science studies literature on affordances to make sense of the social intractability of oocytes, and compare them with the respondents' much greater willingness to donate frozen embryos for human embryonic stem cells research.
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