June 26, 2006

Selling Eggs: A True Story

You really want to read Golden Eggs, the first-of-its-kind story in the Boston Globe about the experiences of an egg donor. It isn't the first narrative, in fact there have been books and series and TV programs. But this is Pulitzer stuff:
JAMIE GALBRAITH SITS SLIGHTLY HUNCHED OVER AT JAKE'S, THE RESTAURANT in a Marriott hotel in Woburn. She's uncomfortable, and she hasn't eaten much, because yesterday morning she spent 45 minutes in stirrups at the Brigham and Women's Hospital Center for Assisted Reproduction while a doctor suctioned 66 eggs out of her ovaries

A little cramping is a small price, Galbraith tells me, considering that a Boston couple is paying her $15,000 for her trouble. She is 5-foot-8 and has green eyes and naturally blond hair. She lives in Michigan, but human eggs don't stand up to shipping, so she came to Massachusetts and to her clients' fertility clinic for the operation. This is her fourth procedure in three years; she has another scheduled in July in New Jersey.

It would be nice to say that she is only here to help someone. That this mother of two and military wife wants to spread the joy of family life - and she does. But there's another reason why Galbraith, who turns 27 this week, has spent so much time in stirrups. She needed to raise a down payment for a house and relieve some of the $14,000 in loans she's using to pay the University of Phoenix online, where she is studying for a bachelor's degree in business.

Galbraith's fee is on the high end of the spectrum, which starts at about $5,000 per donation cycle. That's the process by which eggs are artificially stimulated to mature, then surgically "harvested," or extracted. Prospective clients are shown pictures of Galbraith now, as a baby, and during adolescence. They also see photographs of her children, now 6 and 9. But what sells even more persuasively is her track record. Each of her three prior donations produced egg counts in the 40s - more than double what is typical - and each resulted in offspring. So her price has climbed, from $5,000 to $8,000 to $15,000.

What's more, she and her sister, a nursing student in Illinois who is also a donor, are starting their own agency to recruit other donors and match them with patients. The sisters have already recruited a few of their friends and are actively looking for more donors.

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