When women travel to Greece, they pay about $7600 for a donated egg
and an in vitro fertilisation procedure, a third of the price to go
through similar treatment with a donated egg in Australia.
Many women also make the trip because in Australia they are unable to receive donated eggs that cannot be traced.
Sydney reproductive scientist Denyse Asher, who works
exclusively with women who need eggs, last year sent more than 90
couples and single women to Greece, Spain and South Africa for
donations. Most patients were under 50, but one 53-year-old who went to
South Africa had just given birth to a boy, Ms Asher said. Fairfax Media
also knows of one women in her late 50s who became pregnant.
Comedian Mary Coustas, 49, raised the profile of older women
travelling to Greece for egg donation after she gave birth to a
daughter, Jamie, in November last year following miscarriages and the
stillbirth of another daughter.
But some Australian fertility specialists warn not knowing
the identity of donors could pose ethical and medical problems. In
Australia, women must find a donor known to them and pay all medical
expenses but are not allowed to buy eggs. But in Greece, young women are
paid 1000 euros ($1500) to donate and many do it to make extra money
for their families.
Ms Asher, who runs the Bondi Junction clinic Donor Eggs
Australia, said the ''draconian laws'' in Australia and particularly NSW
meant women often had no option but to travel overseas. In the 13 years
she had been sending patients overseas, including young women who had
undergone cancer treatment or started menopause prematurely, about 360
babies had been born, she said.
But Kee Ong, a fertility specialist at Monash IVF who does
about 50 donor cycles each year at his Gold Coast clinic, urged women to
consider finding a local donor rather than travelling overseas.
Monash IVF can import eggs from the US-based World Egg Bank
at a cost to patients of about $20,000, or some of Dr Ong's patients
find their own donors through the online forum Egg Donation Australia.
In NSW, a central registry stores information about donors and babies
born from donor eggs or sperm.
''We do not encourage the use of overseas donors as they do
not satisfy legislative requirements and the most important thing is the
unavailability of identifying information of the donor,'' Dr Ong said.
Gynaecologist Nikos Kanakas, the director of Embryoland in
Athens, one of many clinics in the Greek capital offering egg donation,
said he had seen an increasing number of Australian women in the past
''We have many happy families in Australia who have come to
our clinic for egg donation,'' Dr Kanakas said. Under Greek law, women
can access IVF up until they are 50, although it is suspected some women
hide their age to seek treatment.
Dr Kanakas said women in their 40s and 50s were not designed
to be having babies. ''But you cannot say to a woman at 41, 42 or even
45, sorry you cannot have a baby,'' he said.The latest figures on assisted reproductive technology shows there were 961 donor egg cycles in Australia in 2011.