INFERTILE North American couples are turning to the classified advertising in student newspapers to find ovarian eggs from young women willing to risk their health for money.
One New York University film student, who had her eggs harvested four times and made $9,000, suffered severely swollen ovaries for a week because of the fertility drugs she had taken.
Advertising offers of money for human eggs is not new, but advances in reproductive technology mean more and more requests are cropping up from couples seeking healthy, young donors.
The practice has fired debate inside editorial offices over the ethics of the advertisements. Some student papers have chosen to refuse the business.
Joseph Clark, who works on Ubyssey, the University of British Columbia student paper, said: "We see it as an ethical issue that should be approached on the editorial rather than advertising side of the paper." The paper has rejected two egg donor seekers this year.
With tuition fees rising in both the US and Canada, some critics feel university students are now more prone to sign up for questionable money-making ventures. British Columbia professor Patricia Baird, who headed a Canadian royal commission on reproductive technology in 1993, told the Vancouver Sun newspaper that she praised the student paper for banning the ads. "That's protecting the student population from exploitation," she said.
While the content of display advertising in Canadian university student newspapers is regulated by a national association, papers are on their own when it comes to what can run in the classifieds.
In Toronto, York University's Excalibur decided to print the advertisements, one of which called for "a blue-eyed, fair complexion, drug and disease free" donor. "I like to believe this is a community where you can debate issues like this," said editor-in-chief Derek Chezzi, whose paper is distributed to 20,000. "We like to give our readers a lot of credit."
US student newspapers have seen a rise in the numbers of couples advertising for donors, according to Frances Huffman, editor-in-chief of U. The National College Magazine. She said that egg donation was no different from volunteering for pharmaceutical experiments or selling plasma, although it was a physically more invasive.
Stacey Young was editor of the University of Toronto's The Varsity two years ago. When she ran three adverts from couples she was accused of being part of an egg-selling trade. The Varsity has since decided to ban similar ads.
"As long as this is legal, I don't care what is in the ad," said Ms Young. "The classifieds have always been a very weird place."