We know the role talent agents perform in the entertainment industry: they match their clients – including models and actresses – to available jobs. Reports have recently surfaced which shed light on a new type of agent: so-called “egg agents.” These individuals, who are hired by couples facing fertility issues and unable to have children without the assistance of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), target and recruit attractive actresses and models to donate their eggs. Many media outlets, including the Today show, have recently covered this booming trend.
The women find their way to the egg agents usually by either answering ads which appear on casting sites and in publications geared towards entertainers, or by agreeing to participate in the process once they have been approached by the agent who has sought them out for this purpose. Once the women make their first donation – for which they are typically paid between $8,000 – $10,000 – their names are entered into a database and they receive regular calls inquiring whether they are interested in donating again. This leads many to donate several times, especially where the income from the donations is steady while that from acting or modeling is uncertain.
According to the reports, the process often begins with the agent performing a full background check on the donor, including not only a review of her health history, but also an examination of her academic record, including grades and standardized test results. The better the record, the more money the donor can command. Thereafter, the agent sets up interviews between the donors and the couples. If the donor is selected, she then is placed on hormone therapy for two to nine weeks to increase egg production. Thereafter, the eggs are harvested. A woman can donate her eggs up to six times, based upon recommended guidelines established by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Typically, donors sign a waiver agreeing that they will not be provided any further information regarding their donation, including whether a child was born as a result of the process.
The practice is not without controversy. Women’s advocates have criticized the egg donation industry for taking advantage of vulnerable young women who are in need of money. Others, however, view this process as serving a valuable function in allowing women to help otherwise infertile couples to have a family while also permitting them to financially benefit from the help they provide, and note that many donors have described the process as “meaningful.”