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U.S. clinic's human egg raffle sparks debate in Britain

LONDON - An American infertility clinic seeking business in Britain prompted fierce criticism by offering free eggs from a U.S. woman to one participant in a promotional seminar Wednesday in London.

The event has sparked a debate in Britain about the ethics of an event that many said violated the spirit, if not the letter, of a European Union law forbidding fertile women being paid for their eggs.

Eggs donors in the United Kingdom cannot be compensated for more than 250 pounds ($384) a month for travel and time off work. The rule limits the number of donors and makes it very difficult for infertile women to obtain eggs in Britain and much of Europe.

It is not illegal for Europeans to pay for eggs overseas, and for years infertile European women seeking eggs have traveled to other countries like America, where paying for eggs and sperm is common and legal.

As part of a marketing push in Britain, the Virginia-based Genetics and IVF Institute held a free seminar last night, at which one randomly chosen couple won a free donor egg treatment.

To donate, a woman must undergo a monthlong treatment that involves injecting herself with hormones to stimulate the ovaries, then undergoing a procedure to retrieve several eggs.

The clinic's prize is worth more than $10,000 - a $6,000 fee for the donor and $4,000 in medical costs associated with the hormone treatment and egg retrieval.

Other U.S. clinics have been known to pay women up to $35,000 for their eggs.

British fertility experts slammed the event as a publicity stunt.

"There's something shocking in the association of a raffle and giving away a human product," said Dr. Francoise Shenfield, a fertility and medical ethics expert at University College London.

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