Recent Resources for Feminists
Saturday January 31, 2015
73 women sterilised in 4 hrs in VaranasiBy Sanjay Pandey:
Health officials in Uttar Pradesh have not learnt a lesson from the botched-up sterilisation surgeries in Chattishgarh that left several women dead.
Lucknow: On Thursday, 73 women were sterilised at a special camp in Varanasi, the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in just four hours by a single doctor. The doctor took a little over three minutes for one operation. According to standard procedure, a doctor must not perform more than 30 such surgeries in a day.
The women were made to lie on the ground under the open sky amid biting cold. The agony of the women was compounded by the fact that the ground was wet owing to the rains that lashed the area the day before.
According to the reports, the surgeries were performed at Chiraigaon Primary Health Centre on Thursday. The matter came to light on Friday when pictures of the women lying on the floor appeared in local channels.
Sources said that 76 women had got themselves registered for surgeries at the special camp at the PHC, which has 30 beds.
The registration of three women was later cancelled after it was found that they were not well.
Though such special sterilisation camps were organised at the PHC almost every week yet there was no arrangement to provide post-operative care, sources said.
UP Chief Secretary Alok Ranjan has ordered a probe into the matter. "It is a very serious matter...we will probe it and stern action will be taken against the guilty officials," Ranjan said.
Earlier, similar reports had been received from some other districts as well. Barely a few months back, doctors had performed 42 tubectomy in a single day and then made the women to lie on the floor.
DH News Service
Saturday January 31, 2015
73 sterilisations in a single day: Chief secy seeks report
Varanasi/Lucknow: Promising stringent action against doctors and officials for performing sterilization surgeries on women against the prescribed norms in Varanasi, chief secretary Alok Ranjan said on Friday the government would ensure there was no repeat of such incidents. On Friday, officials in Varanasi held a sterilization camp at a primary health centre where 73 women were operated upon in four hours. Due to lack of adequate facilities to accommodate the patients, the women were then asked to recoup on the floor before being discharged.
On Friday, taking serious exception to the incident, Ranjan directed officials to conduct a state-wide campaign between February 1 and April 30 to spread awareness about the need to improve neonatal and child health statistics in the state. In an open violation of prescribed norms, as many as 73 women were reportedly operated upon by a single doctor at a camp held at a Primary Health Centre (PHC) in Chiraigaon area on Thursday. According to an office bearer of Provincial Medical Health Service (PMHS), the state government`s guideline permits a doctor to do maximum of 30 surgeries a day at the camp.
However, chief medical officer (CMO) Dr MP Chaurasia claimed that there was no negligence in sterilisation operations, and the operations were performed by two doctors. Fortunately, the incident of Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh), where many women had lost their lives at a sterilisaton camp held in November last, was not repeated in Varanasi. What had happened in Bilaspur could have happened in Varanasi too as the health department had put the lives of several women at risk by performing family planning surgeries on a large scale without proper post-surgery facilities.
According to Dr Arvind Singh, secretary, PMHS, there is clear guideline of the state government that a doctor can perform 20-30 operations a day at the camp. The members of medical fraternity on the other hand feel that administrative pressure works behind such incidents, as the health department wants to meet the targets. Coming under pressure, doctors take the risk of performing maximum surgeries at such camps.
UN News Centre ~ Friday January 30 2015
Scourge of sexual violence in armed conflict ‘far from being rooted out,’ Security Council told
Scroll down to also read "India for greater female participation in UN peace efforts"
Refugee children from the Central African Republic being tested for signs of malnutrition in an encampment on the banks of the Oubangi River in Equateur province, Democratic Republic of the Congo. (UNHCR/B. Sokol)
Despite some positive developments across the United Nations system, the task of protecting civilians has become more onerous as conflicts have become increasingly vicious, with the brutalization of women a deplorable persisting trend, a senior UN relief official said today, as she urged the Security Council to press all conflict parties to abide by their international obligations towards civilian protection.
Briefing the Council’s open debate, which focused on the vulnerabilities of conflict-affected women and girls, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Kyung-Wha Kang said that from Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, to the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Ukraine and many others, civilians caught up in armed conflict are being killed and maimed, fleeing their homes and fearing for their lives.
"Now more than ever, the protection of civilians needs to be at the top of our priorities," said Ms. Kang, explaining that at the start of 2014, humanitarian organizations appealed for aid to help 52 million people in urgent need of assistance and protection. By the end of the year, the number had gone up by almost 50 per cent to 76 million. Overwhelmingly, these people are civilians affected by conflict – and the majority are women and girls.
Joined at the Council by Helen Durham, Director for International Law and Policy for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Iwad Elman, of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, Mr. Kang said that currently, the average length of conflict-related displacement is now 17 years.
"One of the worst examples of this is Syria, where half of the population has been displaced…but the numbers are growing elsewhere, for example in Darfur, where 450,000 people were displaced last year, adding to the more than two million people already in internally displaced persons camps (IDP) camps," she continued, stressing that while the Council has taken action to bolster civilian protection and recognized the specific needs of women and girls, more overall measures are required as "the scourge of sexual violence in armed conflict is far from being rooted out."
Spotlighting several troubling examples of the "consistent and persistent" brutalization women face, Ms. Kang said that as militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) have captured territory in Iraq and Syria, they have used and punished women to demonstrate their power. Women have been repeatedly raped, forced into marriage and sold into slavery. Nigerian women and girls have given harrowing accounts of their experiences at the hands of Boko Haram, she added.
"Simply, crisis exacerbates gender inequalities. While entire communities suffer the impact of armed conflict, women and girls are often the first to lose their rights to education, to political participation and to livelihoods, among other rights being bluntly violated," she continued, and such challenges are manifestations of deeper, systemic problems.
"We need to better understand the social, economic and power dynamics which result in the continued enslavement of and use of violence against women, particularly in conflict situations. We must also make concerted efforts to expand women’s representation and participation in rule of law processes and protection mechanisms. Women must be included in the political leadership, security forces and accountability mechanisms in countries," she said.
To facilitate these efforts on the ground, 17 Women Protection Advisers have been deployed to six UN peacekeeping operations and embedded in the Offices of the Special Representatives. In South Sudan, the UN Mission regularly consults displaced women in the POC sites through consultation groups which have been formed. Those consultations help to ensure that prevention and protection strategies led by the mission take into account the perceptions and security needs of women.
Yet much remained to be done, she said, and While the primary responsibility for protecting and assisting civilians affected by armed conflict lies with the parties to the conflict, many parties have demonstrated complete disregard for their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law.
"In some cases, parties to conflict deliberately target civilians and use tactics designed to cause them the greatest harm possible," noted Ms. Kang again drawing attention to Boko Haram, which she said had massacred hundreds of civilians and destroyed thousands of homes, schools and medical clinics in Nigeria during the past few weeks. This follows repeated incidents of kidnapping of hundreds of women and children. In Syria and Iraq, all parties have been targeting civilians based on ethnic and religious grounds.
Despite this troubling context, she said, "International law is clear: parties to conflict are responsible for meeting the basic needs of persons under their control. Yet, time and again, we see parties to conflict violating these basic obligations with impunity, with grave consequences for civilians." As such, conflict parties must be pressed to do more to comply with their legal obligations and ensure accountability whenever such obligations are violated. But the responsibility does not lie solely with the parties themselves.
"This Council and the international community must take steps to tackle the impunity that continues to fuel many conflicts, as well as the endless flow of weapons and arms. There is nothing that emboldens violators more than knowing that they will not be brought to account for their crimes," she declared, adding: "We also need to build up our collective capacity, to find political solutions to conflicts at an early stage, rather than struggling to cope with the consequences."
The efforts of humanitarian workers and peacekeepers are no substitute for timely and resolute political action to prevent and resolve conflict. And women must be full participants in the process, Ms. Kang stressed, as she urged stakeholders to be more attuned to the specific threats that civilians are facing and the risk of escalation of violence and violations, often manifested through heightened discrimination and repression of minorities, including against women and girls.
"When we see early warning signs, we must be able to act quickly and effectively," she concluded, drawing attention to the importance of the Secretary-General’s Human Rights Up Front initiative.
Saturday January 31, 2015
India for greater female participation in UN peace effortsBy IANS
To protect women caught in conflicts, India has called for greater female participation in UN peace efforts and a broader approach that focuses on "peacebuilding" rather than concentrating on traditional peacekeeping operations.
India's Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji told the Security Council Friday: "The participation of women in all aspects of the prevention and resolution of conflicts is an important policy measure which the Council should encourage while mandating peace operations."
Speaking in a debate on protecting civilians in armed conflict, he drew on Indian women's participation in peacekeeping operations and said, "Our experience in Liberia showed that the actual requirements for addressing issues confronting women in armed conflict were related to the concept of peacebuilding, rather than peacekeeping."
A representative of non-governmental organizations (NGO), who was invited by the Council to speak about the issues facing women, said the UN should increase the number of women staff in peacekeeping operations, in both military and police components.
Ilwad Elman of the NGO Working Group On Women, Peace and Security said that when there are female peacekeepers and police, women in areas of conflict are better able to communicate their concerns about safety and request protection.
Mukerji said India was the first UN member to bring about the active participation of women in peacekeeping operations when it sent an all female police unit to the UN peacekeeping operations in Liberia in 2007.
He recalled what the then-US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said of India at the Council in 2009: "They have set an example that must be repeated in UN peacekeeping missions all over the world."
India now has a total of 137 women participating in UN Peacekeeping Operations, 112 of whom are from the police and 13 are from the military. Of them 102 serve in a police contigent in the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
Setting out a strategy to deal with the problem, Mukerji said the Council should now split up "the complex multidimensional nature of its peacekeeping mandates, and focus on addressing issues confronting women in armed conflict situations through focused peacebuilding activities, so that the transition to a post-conflict society can be sustainable."
This approach would give greater scope to humanitarian and development programs and fight the exploitation of women caught in armed conflicts, he said.
The nature of armed conflicts has changed since India first contributed troops to UN operations under the traditional mandate when "keeping the peace, was the best guarantee for protection of civilians caught up in armed conflicts," he said.
"Whereas earlier, our peacekeepers were deployed to keep the peace between states," he said, "we are now witnessing a steady increase in the deployment of UN peacekeepers in situations of internal conflicts within member states."
The impact of the instability and violence in the areas of conflict due to the breakdown of government "has been felt by the most vulnerable of the civilian populations, especially women and girls," he said.
Mukerji pointedly drew attention to how the working of the Council itself has contributed to the situation. "The evident inability of the Council to address and nurture sustainable political solutions to such conflict situations" was a major reason for the "open-ended" situations of conflict and instability that took a toll on women.
India speaks authoritatively on UN peacekeeping operations as it is the single largest contributor to these missions, having sent over 180,000 troops to 43 of the 68 operations which have claimed the lives of 156 Indians.
Nearly 70 nations spoke at Friday's session because of the growing concern over the victimisation of civilians - - and women in particular - - in conflicts around the world.
"Sexual violence during armed conflict is a violation of international humanitarian law," Helen Durham, a director at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said. "It is not inevitable. It must and can be stopped. What is required is a concerted effort by everyone concerned to prevent and put an end to it."
Melbourne ~ Sunday January 25, 2015
Rosie Batty is Australian of the Year
By Shane Green
Video: The Rosie Batty Factor
Domestic and family violence campaigner Rosie Batty reflects on her year in the public spotlight.
Australians of the Year share some common features. In the main, they are individuals who stand out in their chosen fields: those who can hit or kick a ball, can act or sing, excelled in their professions. But no one has been like Rosie Batty.
As she collected her award from Tony Abbott on the lawns in front of Parliament House, we as a nation watched and applauded this remarkable woman. But at the same time, as we have always done when she has appeared in public, we drew a short, pained breath at the profound tragedy of it all, that the beginning point was the death of her 11-year-old son, Luke.
Three weeks short of a year ago, Ms Batty and Luke were making a life in the small semi-rural community of Tyabb, a single mother and son. The facts of what happened next are tragic: Greg Anderson, her former partner and Luke's father, murdered his son in the nets after cricket practice. Rosie Batty Australian of the Year. ( Jay Cronan)
The shocking and public act of family violence jolted us, how the everyday and seemingly safe setting of kids practising cricket on a weekday afternoon became so brutalised. Still, after the initial coverage, there is every chance the story of Luke Batty and the wider, overarching concerns about domestic violence may have receded.
Rosie Batty ensured that didn't happen. Following Luke's death, the expected and accepted thing would have been a retreat into private grief. But the next day, she emerged from her home to speak to reporters. "My name is Rosie," she said. "I am the mother of Luke."
In a calm, low voice, she told the story of the increasingly erratic behaviour of Luke's father. But it was not a story of anger. "No one loved Luke more than Greg, his father. No one loved Luke more than me. We both loved him," she said. "I want to tell everybody that family violence happens to everybody, no matter how nice your house is, no matter how intelligent you are. It can happen to anyone, and everyone."
Her demeanour, her strength, was remarkable. As the past 11 months have demonstrated, these traits are deeply ingrained. From the tragedy of Luke's death, she has emerged as a powerful, articulate campaigner on the often-hidden crisis of domestic violence, speaking with the loud and clear authenticity of one so painfully touched.
Her name brings an instant recognition, and her strong voice has moved the likes of retiring Victoria Police chief commissioner Ken Lay, who has talked about the "Rosie Batty factor" as a catalyst for change. She has championed the cause, calling for an overhaul of the court system and criticising systemic failures and a lack of leadership.
Certainly, the Rosie Batty factor has been at work in the new Victorian Labor government fulfilling its election promise to call a royal commission into family violence.
That such change could result from such tragedy is a positive. But Rosie Batty also deals with the profound pain of the loss of her son.
"There have been moments of acute reality at the loss of Luke and unreality of finding myself doing things I would never have done otherwise," she says. "It has that sense of being unreal."
In part, the power of the Rosie Batty factor has been the empathy from every parent placing themselves in her position, trying to imagine what it could be like – that short, pained breath we take.
"I could never imagine not having Luke," she says. "When you have a child, you just can't imagine them not being there, or seeing them suffer or something happening to them. As a parent, you're just built to protect them, from pain, from hurt. You're overly sensitive when it comes to things that happen in the playground, at school. So ultimately, there is that acknowledgement as a parent that you can't imagine having to cope with what I'm having to cope with."
Before Luke's death, Ms Batty had seen others experience tragedy, and marvelled at their personal strength.
"I've always been amazed at the courage and strength that people do have. Ultimately, you have no choice but to get up each day and face the world, and put one step forward. What is the alternative?"
The support and respect she has received from the wider community has been enormously helpful, she feels. "And certainly, it could have been a different experience," she says. "I could have said wrong things, and I could have all gone very ugly for me in many ways. I just feel incredibly fortunate that it has unfolded in such a positive and constructive way."
As for awards and acknowledgements, she has received plenty – including some of which she was unaware. It has made her appreciate their value. "You actually don't realise how much an award means to you until you're actually acknowledged," she says.
But beyond the accolades is the momentum for real change generated by the Rosie Batty factor. "What I'm looking forward to is really starting to see the change in legislation, strategy, programs and things like that," Rosie Batty says, "the work starting to unfold."
[But, please read on to learn of the impact of the Abbott Government’s outrageous budget cuts to Victorian community legal services, Aboriginal services and men's support services - which all help women to leave violent relationships]
Melbourne ~ Sunday January 25, 2015
Victorian family violence services face cuts
By Miki Perkins/Reporter for The Age
Family violence experts have echoed Australian of the Year Rosie Batty's calls for the government to guarantee long-term funding to specialist women's services.
Many Victorian community legal services, Aboriginal services and men's support services - which all help women to leave violent relationships - will have to slash programs or face closure because of federal funding cuts.
The new Yarra Ranges Legal Centre in Healesville is set to close after only 10 months because its $200,000 in federal funding was pulled after the change in government.
This comes despite surging family violence in the region: police stats show the number of applications for intervention orders in the Yarra Ranges has increased by almost 230 per cent in the past five years. Family violence cases are the centre's biggest area of work.
Eastern Community Legal Centre head Michael Smith, who manages the centre, says if they are unable to find back-up funding it will close its doors in June.
"We're very proud of Rosie and we would hope with her announcement [as Australian of the Year] the Federal Government will make family violence a real priority and fund it properly," Mr Smith said.
In Victoria, 14 community legal centres will be affected by federal budget cuts from June. A third of all new cases opened by Victorian centres each year relate to family violence, the Federation of Community Legal Centres says.
Antoinette Braybrook, chief executive officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service, says the well-regarded service is facing closure.
Ms Braybrook, who has been with the service since it was founded, said control of its funding has been taken over by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and it has been forced to re-apply from scratch for funding in a tender process.
With funding for the Victorian centre to run out at the end of June, Ms Braybrook will not learn if their application is successful until July.
"I've been working in this job for 12 years and I've never felt this much uncertainty before, it is really, really concerning," Ms Braybrook said. "We've got amazing staff that are sticking by us, but the pressure's on for everyone."
When she accepted her award for Australian of the Year on Sunday, Ms Batty made reference to the high incidence of family violence for Indigenous women: "The statistics are unacceptable, indisputable and, if they did happen on our streets, there would be a public outcry."
As well as legal services and housing services, men's services in Victoria have also been affected by federal budget cuts.
About $600,000 a year in specialist family violence services grant funding has been cut, with about half of that money allocated to men's behavioural change programs, said No to Violence spokesman Rodney Vlais.
In a statement, new Social Services Minister Scott Morrison said he would welcome an opportunity to meet Rosie Barry and hear her proposals.
Last year the Federal Government launched the Second Action Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children and allocated it more than $100 million, Mr Morrison said.
AM December 23 2013
Concern over cuts to Indigenous family violence program
Connie Agius reported this story on Monday, December 23, 2013 08:00:00
Listen to MP3 of this story ( minutes)
TONY EASTLEY: One of the Coalition's key appointments in the field of Indigenous affairs has spoken out about the government's cost cutting.
The chairman of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council, Warren Mundine, is concerned about cuts to the national program helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are victims of family violence and sexual assault.
He says that although cuts to Indigenous legal aid programs were necessary, he doesn't think the National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service program is the right place to start.
With more, heres Connie Agius.
CONNIE AGIUS: The Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service is a national program with offices around the country. It provides a range of legal and support services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are victims of family violence and sexual assault.
A woman, who we'll call Jane, credits the program with her escape a violent home.
JANE: I was a victim of family violence for seven years. And so it just escalated to a point where it was quite dangerous for myself and that it was dangerous for the children.
CONNIE AGIUS: It was important to Jane that she find a service that understood her culture.
JANE: It meant that I didn't need to have to explain my position as an Aboriginal woman and mother. It meant that I was working with Aboriginal workers as well, and it meant that when I have the service in court that they were able to speak as if I was the one that was speaking about my situation as an Aboriginal woman.
CONNIE AGIUS: Jane benefited from one of four legal assistance programs now targeted for government cuts. The program's administrators say they'll lose $3.6 million over the next three years.
The Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis, issued a statement to AM saying funding will be stripped from policy reform and lobbying activities - and he says frontline legal services won't be affected.
But the national convenor for the program, Antoinette Braybrook, disagrees.
ANTOINETTE BRAYBROOK: The Family Violence Prevention Legal Service program does not get funding for policy and law reform, so I'm not sure how they can say that it is only to that and frontline services won't be affected. That $3.6 million cut to our program will have to come from frontline service delivery.
CONNIE AGIUS: Antoinette Braybrook says Aboriginal women are 34 times more likely than the rest of the community to be hospitalised because of family violence. She says the service is already struggling to keep up with demand.
ANTOINETTE BRAYBROOK: We're always at capacity and trying to manage those high caseloads. So we are under-resourced now, and these cuts will only contribute to us not being able to meet that demand.
CONNIE AGIUS: Ms Braybrook's concerns are shared by Warren Mundine, who is the chair of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council.
WARREN MUNDINE: It is really tough, because we do need to ensure that we are working hard in this area, because it is a very crucial area for us.
CONNIE AGIUS: Is this the right area to be cutting, in terms of funding?
WARREN MUNDINE: Well no, not really, because it's an area that it is likely in regard to the domestic violence situation, and I see this as a very critical and crucial area for us.
What it really means for us in the Council and that is we need to get on top of this very quickly, and we have to then have conversation back with the Government about, okay, what are the outcomes we need to have in this area, and how do we ensure that the funding and that the proper programming that it replaced to ensure that we are reducing the rate of domestic violence and violence within Aboriginal communities overall.
CONNIE AGIUS: While Warren Mundine is critical of this particular cut, he supports the Government's general plans to cut waste in Aboriginal spending.
TONY EASTLEY: Connie Agius reporting.
India ~ Tuesday 13 January, 2015
Supreme Court asks Centre to respond on clinical trial of vaccinesBy PTI
SC asked the Centre to file its response giving details like process of taking consent of persons on whom clinical trial of cervical cancer prevention vaccines.
NEW DELHI: Supreme Court today asked the Centre to file its response giving details like process of taking consent of persons on whom clinical trial of cervical cancer prevention vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, have been carried out.
A bench of justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant asked the Centre to also indicate who would be liable to pay compensation to the persons if the clinical trial of the vaccination caused adverse impact.
Besides the Centre, the bench also asked governments of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, where clinical trials of the vaccines have taken place, to file their responses within four weeks about issues including the number of affected persons.
The bench asked the Centre to keep in view the 81st report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on clinical trial of vaccines while filing its response.
During the hearing, the counsel for Gujarat said seven deaths were reported from the state and moreover, these did not happen due to the clinical trials but were rather caused by reasons including snake bites.
The court, however, did not concur with the submission. Earlier, the court had asked the Centre to place before it the records regarding the licenses given to cervical cancer prevention vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix.
It had directed the Centre to place before it the report of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare which has dealt with the issue of drugs relating to Human Papilloma Virus ( HPV) vaccine.
The court had allowed to make Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana as respondents in the matter as some villages in these states were chosen for administering the vaccine as an experiment and reports had allegedly suggested that girls suffered side effects of Gardasil and Cervarix, manufactured by pharmaceuticals major Merck Sharpe and Dohme respectively.
The bench said it had to examine whether proper protocol and procedure was followed for introduction of these vaccines because it has been alleged that deaths have also been caused due to the situation.
Wednesday January 14, 2015
Apex court raps Centre over clinical trialsBy TNN
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre to respond what action it intended to take on the parliamentary standing committee's report on irregularity in clinical trials of cervical cancer vaccine saying that government should be concerned about health of its people.
"It should be the concern of UOI that health of people is preserved. Don't leave the matter to court. It is for the government to find out a way," a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said adding, "If Parliamentary Committee has done something then it is obligatory for the executive government to take action on the report".
The court asked the government to file an affidavit stating what procedure should be followed in clinical trial of drugs and who should be held responsible for death or adverse effect on the people who underwent trial.
"File affidavit stating protocol to be followed for getting consent of people to undergo trial and the process to find out what is the effect of vaccination and whose liability is it to pay compensation," a bench headed by Dipak Misra said.
The bench raised questions on why clinical trials of a cervical cancer vaccine were allowed and why particular states and districts were chosen for the trial.
It directed the states of Gujarat and Telangana, which had granted permission for the trial, to file affidavit on how many people died or suffered side effects due to the trial.
Earlier, the court had summoned the files relating to grant of permission for conducting clinical trial of the vaccine in 2012. It had also directed the Centre to produce all files relating to grant of licence for trial of the vaccine to prevent human papyloma virus (HPV) which causes cervical cancer.
UK ~ Tuesday 13 January 2015
EXCLUSIVE: Doctors 'used nine-year-olds as human guinea pigs' for a new cervical cancer vaccine... and they suffered side-effects including nausea, dizziness and weight-loss
Indian children 'were unaware' they were part of cervical cancer drug trial
They were paid £10 to be injected with drug to fight cancer in west
But court papers claim they were duped into taking part in the trial
Children 'suffered side-effects from weight loss to dizziness to nausea'
Cervical cancer victim Jade Goody's mum says: 'This is just not right'
Doctor at centre of 'scandal' says participants were 'adequately informed'
Merck, the company behind drug has also denied any wrongdoing
By Gethin Chamberlain In Indore, India, For Mailonline
Children as young as nine suffered side-effects after being used as unwitting human guinea pigs for a new multi-billion pound anti-cervical cancer drug, it has been claimed.
The new anti-cancer drug has just been approved for use in the United States and is due to be released in Britain this year.
But MailOnline has learned that several of the children used as 'guinea pigs' for the drug trial in India reported suffering problems including weight loss, fatigue, dizziness and menstrual problems.
They and their parents claim they had no idea they were being used to test out Gardasil 9, which was then an untried drug.
The claims have sparked a furious row with the mother of reality TV star Jade Goody, one of the most high profile recent victims of cervical cancer, telling MailOnline: 'It is not right.'
Jackiey Budden said she would not have wanted her daughter - who died aged 27 in 2010 - to have been vaccinated with a drug that had been tested on children who did not know what was happening to them.
'Vaccination is a good idea but it shouldn't be tested on kids,' she said.
Aman Dhawan, 16, is one of many youngsters from Indore who took part in the trial without being aware they had been signed up to test Merckís new Gardasil 9 drug, aimed at preventing cervical cancer
Sana Ansari, 19, her brother Mazhar and sister Asiya were all enrolled in the trial of Gardasil 9 drug - but she and her family say she had no idea she was testing the drug
Aman Dhawan, 16, from Indore, lost weight and strength after being enrolled in the trial, which he didn't know he had signed up for either
Jackiey Budden, mother of Jade Goody, pictured above, who died of cervical cancer aged just 27, says trials like these are wrong
'It is difficult because you want to save lives but it is not right to do it on children that young. They should be able to make up their own minds if they want to test it out.'
Drug firms are already facing claims that they exploited children in the developing world to develop the vaccine.
Merck, which makes Gardasil 9, faces a hearing in India's Supreme Court tomorrow over the alleged use of young girls from poor tribal communities in trials of an earlier anti-cervical cancer drug.
It also involves the Cervarix vaccine produced by GlaxoSmithKline, along with US-based health non-profit organisation PATH, which organised the trials with the backing of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Seven girls died before the trials were halted, although those involved deny the deaths were linked to the vaccines.
An Indian government committee which investigated those trials concluded that they amounted to a serious breach of trust and medical ethics amounting to child abuse and 'a clear cut violation of the human rights of these girl children and adolescents'.
Now Merck is facing fresh claims that it put children at risk to satisfy the demand for a new vaccine.
Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women worldwide and kills more than 265,000 people every year, according to Cancer Research UK.
In the UK alone there were 920 deaths in 2012, the latest figures available.
Both America and Britain advise girls to be inoculated against the deadly disease while in adolescence - and the vaccination programme is worth huge sums of money to the pharmaceutical industry.
Merck's new drug, Gardasil 9, is designed to protect against the strains of Human Papillomavirus responsible for 90 per cent of cervical cancers.
Its effectiveness is not disputed: Merck's clinical trial data shows impressive results, with 99.5 of participants testing positive for antibodies after completing the trials.
But as the Indian test subjects discovered - and Merck's own published research confirms - some recipients of the vaccine do suffer side effects, known as systemic adverse reactions.
The most frequently reported side effects were headache, pyrexia [fever], nausea, dizziness and fatigue.
Dr Hemant Jain (left) faces accusations that he ran drugs trials for international pharmaceutical firms without the consent of patients. The latest case to emerge involves Merckís new Gardasil 9 drug, which Dr Jain administered to 44 children - including Aman (right)
Kalpana Mehta highlighted a series of drug trials on young girls in India which resulted in at least seven deaths. A public interest litigation she brought with two others left India's Supreme Court to request a government investigation into the trials and ultimately led to the court halting drug trials in India
In one trial more than 1,000 out of 7,071 subjects reported suffering headaches, with more than 200 reporting dizziness up to 15 days after the vaccination.
According to Merck, 305 people reported 'serious adverse events' and 321 reported new medical conditions 'potentially indicative of systemic autoimmune disorders'.
Its own report warns that the similarities between the new drug and its predecessor mean that when Gardasil 9 becomes more widely available, some users may also suffer problems reported during the use of Gardasil - including deep vein thrombosis, immune system disorders, gastrointestinal disorders and nervous system disorders such as Guillain-Barré syndrome - known as locked-in syndrome - and motor neuron disease.
Claims of such side effects have made the original Gardasil the subject of some controversy in the US, where some campaigners have questioned its safety.
But last month, after studying the results from trials on at least 13,234 people [Merck also uses the figure of 13,236 in its published research] the US Food and Drug Administration concluded that the vaccine was safe and approved the vaccine for use on children aged nine and upwards. It is now expected to become one of the most widely used anti-cancer drugs in the world.
WHAT IS CERVICAL CANCER?
Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women and kills more than 265,000 people every year, most of them in developing countries, according to Cancer Research UK.
It is caused by changes to the cells in the cervix - which sits at the neck of the womb.
Diagnosed early, it is usually possible to treat - but can mean a woman needs a hysterectomy, radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
But cervical cancer isn't easy to spot: it often has no symptoms in its early stages, although some women may have bleeding in-between periods, after sex or after the menopause.
However, these symptoms don't definitely point to cervical cancer so women are encouraged to be screened regularly to check for signs of the disease.
In England, this takes place from the age of 25 and is commonly as a 'smear test'.
The test shows up any abnormalities in the cells of the cervix. Abnormal tests do not necessarily mean a woman has cervical cancer, as most are caused by infection or treatable pre-cancerous cells, NHS guidance says.
Most are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) - a common virus spread through sex.
There are many strains of the virus - many of which do not cause cancer. Just two known to be responsible for 70 per cent of all cervical cancer.
To cut the rates of cervial cancer, vaccinations against HPV were introduced in 2008. The vaccinations are now routinely given to 12 and 13-year-old girls.
It is hoped it will reduce the incidences of cervical cancer, which caused 920 deaths in 2012, according to the latest figures available.
For Merck - which has cut 8,500 jobs in the last two years in an attempt to save £1.5billion a year - the stakes could not be higher: industry analysts estimate that Gardasil 9 could be worth more than £1.2billion a year to the company in sales.
But those forecast sales may have been on the back of trials conducted on children in the Indian city of Indore that, according to an affidavit lodged with the Supreme Court, were both illegal and unethical.
The affidavit, submitted to the court as part of the public interest litigation over the earlier drug trials, claimed that:
- • None of those involved were told that they were taking part in a drug trial
- • Middlemen acted as touts to recruit patients
- • Parents were lied to and told their children would be getting a successful foreign medicine
- • Those involved targeted the poor and vulnerable
- • Children who suffered health problems received no health care or compensation
Documents lodged with India's Clinical Trials Registry [CTR] reveal that trials of the drug - which during testing was known as V503 - also took place in the UK and 25 other countries.
In India the work was allotted to seven investigators and involved 225 boys and girls aged from nine to 15. Those involved received a series of three injections. No details have been published of the outcomes on the CTR documents.
But MailOnline has seen the list of 44 participants who took part in the study run by Dr Hemant Jain at the MGM Medical College in Indore. The documents bear his stamp and signature. They are the subject of the affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court.
Mazhar Ansari, 18, who was enrolled in a trial of Merck's new Gardasil 9 drug
Whistleblower Dr Anand Rai, 37, lifted the lid on the scandal of illegal drugs trials in the city and now has been given an armed guard to protect him
In addition to the affidavit, MailOnline has spoken to families whose children were used as 'guinea pigs' for the drug.
Among them is Aman Dhawan, 16, who lives with his family in the Pancham Ki Phel slum in Indore in Madhya Pradesh state in the heart of India.
Until 2010 he was a healthy young boy with an aspiration to be be a dancer.
The invitation to receive the vaccinations had come from a neighbour. Other parents were doing it, she said, and not only were their children getting a fantastic new Western 'cure-all', they were getting money for going too - as much as Rs 1,000 [£10] - a large sum in a country where more than 300 million people live on less than the official poverty rate of Rs 47 a day. What was there to lose?
'The doctor said "Don't worry, the vaccine is very good, it will take care of all your diseases",' he says.
'My mum told me this would cure me from several diseases including malaria.
'I wasn't afraid of the injection. But after taking the medicines I saw there were things taking place in my body.'
He began to lose weight and strength, he says.
'Whenever I was eating I wanted less. I was losing my taste for food so that now I don't like to eat a meal in the evening.I was unable to do the things I used to do earlier.'
He shrugs the shoulders of his slight frame.
'I was a very good athlete. At school I won many prizes, but now when I try to run as fast as I used I feel pain in my body and my stomach aches.'
His family do not know what is wrong with him: they say they have received no follow up care after the trial and are too poor to be able to afford to pay for tests of their own.
'I think it may be because of the injections. I can't do the things I used to be able to do. I wanted to be a famous dancer. But I can't be a dancer now. My body is too weak. I don't have the strength. So now, I don't know. Maybe I will open a shop.
Indore, India, where a number of illegal drug trials took place. More than 2,800 people have died during drug tests in Indian since 2005
A hospital building where Dr Hemant Jain - who faces accusations works in Indore
Dr Jain has stamped his name onto this paperwork relating to the drug trial, which was released as a result of questions asked in the Madhya Pradesh state assembly
The first couple of times he attended for the injections, the family was given Rs 200 [£2] 'because they said"'you've come a long way and couldn't work today",' says his mother Seema. The last time he went they were given Rs 1,000 [£10].
'Until now we didn't realise that these drugs were being tested on our children,' she says.
'He was okay initially but then lately he was ill. Earlier he had a good physique but gradually he has lost his weight and he has lost his health.
'Because of our poor and illiterate background we were taken for a ride. If we knew that they were doing this we would never have allowed our children to take these tests.'
Whether by accident or design, many of those who agreed to let their children take part in the trial were poor and illiterate.
Some, like the Dhawans, also noticed changes in their children - late periods, dizziness and weakness. They had something else in common too: they say they had no idea they were taking part in a trial of a new anti-cervical cancer vaccine.
I was a very good athlete. At school I won many prizes, but now when I try to run as fast as I used I feel pain in my body and my stomach aches.
Aman Dhawan, 16
Muskan and Akash Hansari both had the injections, but their father told researchers working for the group behind the Supreme Court case that he was led to believe that it would prevent all sicknesses and illness in general.
'[He has] no idea as to what cervical cancer is. Doesn't know what a uterus is let alone where it is located,' the researchers noted in a report compiled to support the Supreme Court affidavit.
The family was, however, warned that there could be side effects like fever and stomach ache and were given a thermometer to take home and, like all the other trial participants, they were called in later for blood tests.
Muskan, 15, said she was about 11 at the time of the vaccination. She said she 'did not understand anything about the vaccine because nothing was explained to her.'
'Muskan took the vaccine because her father told her to and she trusted him and her father trusted the government doctor,' the report notes.
Mazhar Ansari, 18, and sisters Sana, 17 and Aasiya, 17, were signed up after a cousin heard about the injections from Dr Jain, the man running the trial.
No details have been published on how much Dr Jain was paid to conduct the trial, but published rates for other trials in Indore suggest that an investigator might expect to be paid up to £5,000 for such a trial. Rates vary widely though.
The trials are the subject of a complaint to the country's Supreme Court - the same court which warned In October 2013 that 'foreign companies are treating India as a heaven for clinical trials, but it is proving hell for India'
But it is alleged youngsters like Aman are being used as guinea pigs without their knowledge to ensure the drugs are safe for children in the UK and US
'It should not have been done. It is completely wrong,' says their father Mohammed Umar Ansari.
The family was told that the vaccine was for cervical cancer, but Ansari said he had no idea what that was. Like the Dhawan family, they were paid for their time. Both girls say they have experienced problems with their periods, which have become late and irregular.
This echoes accounts from the US, where some girls vaccinated with the original Gardasil have reported problems with missed periods.
Shaurya Mishra's father told the researchers the family felt 'short changed and cheated' by the doctors after the 14-year-old was signed up for the trials. He was told the vaccine would prevent cervical cancer but confessed he did not know what this was.
'He felt bad that American companies try their vaccines out on Indians and then those same vaccines are given to the Americans to benefit them while the Indians are just used as guinea pigs.'
Shruti and Leena Pardeshi's mother was also convinced that the vaccine would be good for her girls. She was warned that they could get a light fever and stomach ache, and was given a thermometer to take home.
Instead, Shruti had felt dizzy and weak and doctors had been unable to get blood from her on the blood tests. Both girls started to experience late periods.
The activists behind the court challenge include veteran women's campaigner Kalpanna Mehta and Dr Anand Rai, a doctor who has campaigned for years against drug trials.
Mehta shuffles a sheaf of documents released by the state health department in response to a request from a member of the state assembly. This is where the list of the trial participants came from.
'The trials are extremely faulty,' she says.
Hollie Anderson, 13, pictured at home in Hadley Wood, Hertfordshire, was the first teenager to have the vaccination against the virus that can lead to cervical cancer
She says her researchers have interviewed 14 of the children and their families and recorded a range of problems suffered since the vaccinations.
'One girl had serious mood swings and depression. Another developed serious anaemia. One boy lost a lot of weight, one girl has stomach ache, four have menstrual abnormalities and one has stopped her periods.'
But many patients do not realise they have rights, she says.
'Even when they know it is wrong they don't want to fight. We still live in a country were they think doctors are gods. There are no risks [for the drug companies] here.'
But there are risks for the campaigners. Last year Dr Rai was given a bodyguard in response to death threats made against him because of his campaigning.
He sits in the canteen of the MY Hospital in Indore, watching his bodyguard clean a double-barrelled shotgun.
'Some people are unhappy with me,' he says. He says he has been threatened by other doctors and told he will not get work because of his efforts to expose the way some drug trials are run in the city.
'They chose poor groups, weaker groups, illiterate groups, those who needed medicine at any cost. They are poor. They have to rely on these doctors, they have to rely on government hospitals because they don't have any option.
'International companies use Indians as guinea pigs.'
They chose poor groups, weaker groups, illiterate groups, those who needed medicine at any cost. They are poor. They have to rely on these doctors, they have to rely on government hospitals because they don't have any option.'International companies use Indians as guinea pigs. - Whistleblower Dr Anand Rai
A detailed report prepared by Dr Rai and colleagues - upon which the affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court was based - is highly critical of the Gardasil 9 trials.
It noted side effects among children including dizziness, weakness, weight loss, mood swings, depression and suicidal tendencies.
'Not a single family knew it was a clinical trial and were all duped into believing that this vaccine had proven to be effective in other parts of the world,' it says.
The report does not, however, allocate blame for who was responsible for this failure.
'These families have been duped into taking the HPV vaccine and their right to give informed consent was violated. Many of them took the vaccine in good faith and were unsuspectingly used as guinea pigs for yet another clinical trial in India.'
The man behind the trials, Dr Jain, refused to meet face to face, but issued a staunch defence of his work, claiming that the allegations about the trials were the work of 'vested interests' chasing compensation.
Dr Jain, a paediatrician, criticised the 'hue and cry' around his trials. He said his centre had World Health Organisation approval for conducting vaccine trials and that many of the children involved in the Gardasil 9 trials were middle class or the children of colleagues.
'All the trial participants and their parents were adequately informed about the whole process of the trial and their queries if any were suitably answered at the time of signing the consent form,' he said in a written response.
It is not the first time he has had to issue a denial over his drug trial work. An earlier report by the State Bureau of Investigation of Economic Offences criticised him after 18 people suffered serious adverse events during drug trials he conducted. The report notes that he received several large payments for the trials, including Rs 2 million (£20,000) for a World Health Organisation sponsored trial on 400 children. Dr Jain said that none of the adverse events were related to the trials.
Previously India's National Commission for Protection of Child Rights also registered a case against Dr Jain following a complaint by the parents of an 11-year-old girl, who claimed she had been the subject of a vaccine trial without their consent and which had led to serious side effects.
In 2012, Dr Jain was the subject of an undercover television investigation by India's Headlines Today station, which filmed him talking about the profit margins from drug trials.He was shown explaining that there was an 18-20 per cent margin.
The news channel accused him of signing up patients to trials without informing them that they were participating. He denied any wrongdoing.
Hollie's mother paid £450 for her to have the vaccine, Gardasil, privately after seeing her own mother batttle against cancer
In a statement Merck - which trades in India as MSD Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd - said: 'Merck conducts clinical trials worldwide to evaluate the safety and efficacy of its therapeutic candidates. These trials are fundamental to the development of innovative medicines and vaccines that help treat or prevent illness in humans.
'It is Merck policy that all investigational studies in human subjects must be conducted in a manner consistent with laws, regulations and guidelines for the protection of human subjects, including International Conference on Harmonization-Good Clinical Practices (ICH-GCP) standards.
'Individual country regulations and guidelines are an important source of specific requirements for the conduct of medical research.'
A spokeswoman for Merck argued that while the additional affidavit on the Gardasil 9 trials had been submitted to the Supreme Court, it was not included in a subsequent list of issues the judges were considering.
The campaigners say that it was submitted and remains part of the case launched two years ago by Mehta and her colleagues.
The court's record of proceedings from last August shows that the judges are primarily concerned about whether those taking part in the original trials of Gardasil and GSK's anti-cervical cancer drug Cervarix gave their informed consent and whether they had been the subject of clinical experimentation. They cited at length the report of a hugely-critical government report into the original trials.
'It's not right': Jackiey Budden, pictured above visiting her daughter Jade Goody's headstone on the first anniversary of her death on March 21, 2010 in Upshire, England, has said she disagrees with vaccines being trialled on children
Concerns: Jackiey Budden the mother of Jade Goody, who died of cervical cancer, has spoken of her worry that a vaccine was trialled on children in India
Around 2,900 cases of cervical cancer, pictured under the microscope, are diagnosed each year in the UK
The whole matter was 'fishy,' according to the 72nd report of the parliamentary standing committee on health and family welfare. Everything pointed to a 'well planned scheme to commercially exploit a situation.'
The committee noted that a large number of participants were illiterate and had apparently consented by placing a thumb print on forms they could not read.
It concluded that the trial operators 'violated all laws and regulations laid down for clinical trials by the government.'
Their sole aim had been to promote the commercial interests of the manufacturers who 'would have reaped windfall profits' if the drug had been approved for use in India.
'This is a serious breach of trust by any entity as the project involved life and safety of girl children and adolescents who were mostly unaware of the implications of vaccination,' it wrote. 'The violation is also a serious breach of medical ethics…It also deems it an established case of child abuse.'
That report led the Supreme Court to temporarily suspend clinical trials across the country until new safeguards could be put in place, including new independent ethics committees, registration of all trials and audio-visual recording of consent.
'Foreign companies are treating India as a heaven for clinical trials, but it is proving hell for India,' the judges stated at the time.
Over the past decade, drug trials have become a £300 million a year business in India. In 2003, there were fewer than 50 clinical trials running in India, but the number increased rapidly as pharmaceutical firms realised that costs were up to 60 per cent lower in India than in the US. By 2011, there were 1,852 trials registered with the government, involving an estimated 150,000 patients.
In March 2013 India's health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad revealed that 2,868 people had died since 2005 in government-approved drug trials.
GSK argues that the Supreme Court case does not involve the company and is targeted only at those who conducted the tests, although it is named as a respondent in court papers.
In a written statement GSK said: 'GSK has not been named in the ongoing case and therefore it would be inappropriate for GSK to comment on the matter further.
'Cervarix is already licensed for use in India. GSK submitted the required clinical trial data demonstrating the safety profile and efficacy of Cervarix to the regulators in accordance with the applicable regulations. It is now registered in 130 countries worldwide and has been used in national vaccination programmes to protect women from cervical cancer in many countries, including the Netherlands, Panama and regional programmes across Italy, Poland, Spain and Mexico.'
In a statement PATH said it had cooperated fully in the inquiry into its use of the vaccines and was committed to meeting the highest scientific, ethical and legal standards.
Sunday, 11 January, 2015
Schoolgirls in China paid large sums to donate eggs to infertile couples on black market
Young women are undergoing intensive procedures in exchange for tens of thousands of yuan - but could end up infertile, medical experts warn
Scroll Down to Also Read "Women lured by cash for eggs can pay high cost to health" and from the archives 10 years back by Judy Norsigian in DifferenTakes #33 "Egg Donation for IVF and Stem Cell Research: Time to Weigh the Risks to Women's Health"
- A prospective seller is measured by agents. (SMP)
Health experts have called for government regulation to halt the black market trade in women's eggs, following a report on the practice by state broadcaster CCTV yesterday.
The sellers - some still in high school - were being paid tens of thousands of yuan for their eggs by agencies acting on behalf of infertile couples but were being misled about the risks of the drug therapy involved, the report said.
"The girls we target are all around 20 years old, because that's the age when women's eggs are best," one agency representative told CCTV.
Retrieving the eggs required only drug therapy and minimally invasive surgery across about 20 days, agencies told the women. They could earn between 30,000 (HK$37,910) and 100,000 yuan for a successful retrieval, depending on appearance and education level, CCTV said.
The women were told: "You guys can earn tens of thousands of yuan each time, so why not?"
Mainland law prohibits compensating women for their eggs, although they can donate them up to three times.
Medical experts warned the procedure carried risks.
"Egg retrieval needs a certain dose of injections for ovarian stimulation before the operation, which could cause different levels of damage to the ovaries," said Dr Suen Sik-hung, a private obstetrician in Hong Kong.
"For young women, a large dose might produce more than 20 eggs each time, which could enlarge her ovaries, and in some cases, it could cause bleeding or even necrosis, meaning she will become infertile."
The infertility rate among mainlanders of child-bearing age rose from 3 per cent two decades ago to between 12.5-15 per cent in 2009, according to a report by People's Daily last year. More than 50 million people on the mainland have been diagnosed as infertile, it said.
Some agencies in Guangzhou were charging infertile couples up to 1.2 million yuan for a boy. The package covers eggs, surrogacy services and abortions if the foetus is a girl, according to CCTV.
A Guangzhou-based agency said the minimum charge, if the sex of the baby was not specified, was about 400,000 yuan.
Ai Xiaoming, a professor of women's studies based in Guangdong, said a lack of regulation and medical information could lead young women to sell their eggs for money. One woman undergoing the procedure told CCTV she was paying off credit card debt.
"It's nothing new as in today's China, the human body has become a commodity. It's impossible to ban the commercial surrogacy business as assisted reproduction technology has become part of our lives," Ai said.
"But the growing market shows there is a need to form a comprehensive regulation system, which should be based on a large government-led public consultation between medical authorities and experts from different sectors.
"All the cases show that if the government still hesitates to come up with regulation against these illegal operations, the rights of children and women, as well as the sex imbalance in our country, will never be properly addressed."
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Illegal egg donors 'run big risks'
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Women lured by cash for eggs can pay high cost to health
Documentary reveals 'dirty little secret'
By Cheryl Wetzstein
A few years ago, Alexandra, a doctorate student, decided that selling her eggs to a fertility clinic was the perfect way to get an extra $3,000 she needed to pay for her tuition.
But then "things went south," she recalls in "Eggsploitation," a new documentary on the health hazards of paid egg donation. Alexandra and two other women, identified only by their first names, say their experiences with egg donation led to hospitalizations, ovary loss, stroke and possibly cancer.
College campuses are filled with ads offering to pay young women large sums of money - as much as $100,000 - for their eggs, which are the "main commodity" of the multibillion-dollar fertility industry, film director Jennifer Lahl said at a recent screening of her film at the conservative Family Research Council.
But no one is speaking out on behalf of these young women when problems and complications arise, said Ms. Lahl, a registered nurse and founder of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, which released the film. The "dirty little secret" of the industry is that life-threatening complications can occur with egg donation, she said.
The documentary is likely to fan a long-running controversy over the ethics, finances and health risks of the procedure. Unlike collecting sperm, egg donation is an involved and drawn-out process involving weeks of hormone injections designed to stimulate the ovaries, followed by a surgical extraction conducted with the use of a local anesthetic.
In its defense, the fertility industry points to decades of experience it has built with egg donation and says it knows the risks of short-term complications - such as abdominal discomfort and nausea - as well as more severe, longer-term dangers.
The risks "are primarily related to the stimulation drugs that we're giving," said Dr. R. Stan Williams, president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology.
About 1 percent of the time, the process can lead to severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), he said. OHSS can lead to other complications, such as thrombosis, stroke or a heart attack. "These [OHSS complications] are extremely rare, but they do occur," he said.
"Smaller but still significant'" risks include internal bleeding from the egg-retrieval procedure and pelvic infection, Dr. Williams said.
But, he added, "there's no connection between fertility drugs and ovarian cancer or any kind of cancer."
Information about these rare complications "may or may not be visible" on websites, Dr. Williams said. But "certainly by the time a woman reaches the physician's office," she will hear about them, "as it's the physician's duty to counsel the patient about the risks of any procedure, and that includes the egg donor."
The federal Food and Drug Administration has "absolute oversight" of the screening of the donors "so that infectious diseases are not transferred," and has "an inspection process in place, where they send inspectors out to a random number of clinics each year" to monitor adherence to FDA regulations, Dr. Williams said.
The fertility industry also sets standards and guidelines on egg donation, including payment, he said. It is acceptable to compensate egg donors $5,000, and possibly as much as $10,000 in special circumstances. But advertisements offering $35,000 to $100,000 for egg donations? "We consider those unethical."
But a study last year published in the Hastings Center Report, a leading bioethics journal, found that a fourth of the egg-donation ads culled from more than 60 colleges offered compensation that exceeded the recommended $10,000 ceiling. In another apparent violation of ethical guidelines, the offered pay went up in tandem with the SAT scores of the average incoming freshmen.
Clinics say they adhere to the guidelines laid down by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, but that so-called egg "brokers" - who link donors and clinics - are far more likely to skirt the rules.
Egg donors also testify about their experiences, usually happily, on fertility websites or social networking sites. For instance, a graduate student named "missjamiesue" posted a 10-part video on YouTube describing how she donated 15 of her eggs. "It was not that big a deal. Well, it was - but it isn't something you should be scared of if you are considering doing it," said the young woman, who said she received $5,000 in compensation.
Young women are the targets for this procedure and yet there's not enough clear or unbiased information about its pros and cons, said Kierra Johnson, executive director of Choice USA, a reproductive advocacy group. As a result, she said, Choice USA is working with Generations Ahead, a social justice group, and the Health Equity Institute at San Francisco State University, to survey egg donors and launch a website on the procedure.
Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life, said her organization is "keeping our eye on" the issue as well.
Campus ads on egg donation are reaching young women "right when they need that money most, so we've got to be out there saying, 'Look, you need to take a second look at what you're about to do,'" said Ms. Hawkins.
"The women interviewed in "Eggsploitation" underscore that warning.
Alexandra, for instance, said she read up on egg donation before agreeing to it, but "didn't see the risks."
She eventually produced 28 eggs and felt fine for a week. But then came a searing pain, followed by doctor visits and prescriptions for painkillers.
When she saw a doctor two weeks later, "his face went white" when he saw her distended abdomen. She went in for surgery but lost her ovary.
When she reached her 30s, Alexandra said, cancer was diagnosed in one of her breasts and then in the other breast. She had no known risk factors for cancer, and - except for donating eggs - her health history was unremarkable, she said.
Another egg donor named Sindy landed in the hospital, too: She responded powerfully to the fertility drugs, resulting in a harvest of between 50 and 60 eggs. Pain soon drove her into a hospital, where doctors discovered she had a puncture in an artery, either from the harvesting process or from hyperstimulation. Sindy said she has since endured more surgeries.
Calla, a third donor, said she signed up for egg donation to help someone have a family, but said she regrets it now. She said she suspects the drugs she took interacted with a hidden, benign tumor in her pituitary gland, leading to a massive stroke. In addition to suffering from several disabilities, "I can't have my own children now," she said.
"Eggsploitation" also suggests that two women who donated eggs died directly or indirectly as a result of the procedure.
These donors' stories "need to be told," Ms. Lahl said.
Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC.
About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.
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